BLOEMFONTEIN– Angry family members of hundreds of trapped miners at the Sibanye-Stillwater Beatrix mine near Theunissen in South Africa’s Free State Province are demanding answers, claiming that the mine management has done little to inform them about the latest developments.

At least 955 mineworkers have been trapped underground since Wednesday evening following a violent storm which caused a power outage at four shafts. By Thursday morning, 336 workers have been rescued.

Tempers flared at the mine when angry family members became unruly during a briefing by the management.

My concern is that I need my husband to come back. The children are crying. They are phoning now and then asking for their father. So I’m really hurt, said a family member of one miner.

Operations at the mine, owned by independent gold and platinum mining group Sibayne-Stillwater, have been suspended. Management, however, says they are providing the trapped miners with food and beverages.

Sibanye-Stillwater spokesperson James Wellsted said Thursday that management was doing its utmost to mitigate the crisis.

(National power utility) Eskom managed to restore power to one of the mines to number 4 shaft and we managed to rescue 272 people from underground on that shaft. Unfortunately at number 3 shaft we had problems with generators, then Eskom was still busy trying to restore power. The best outcome will be when we get the full power because we will get more people (out).

The Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) says the mine failed to prepare for emergencies. Amcu’s regional chairperson, Xolani Bokoloshe, said the mine did not have a functioning back-up generator to avert such eventualities.

The situation is not good at all, but we see the employer is trying to rescue those employees. But according to us as the union we don’t see any improvement in terms of rescuing those mine workers which to us is a serious issue.

The National Union of Mineworkers (Num) has refuted claims by Sibanye that the trapped miners have been receiving food and drinks. NUM Regional Chairperson Abbey Hlakoana said the union was concerned about miners with chronic ailments.

When we asked the management whether they are aware about the number of chronic disease people they couldn’t even tell what number of people are chronic and whether they have been assisted in terms of their medical treatment and one other issue we are concerned of is the food. We were told by management that the food is already down but when we arrived at the shaft food was still there.

The management says all the trapped miners are accounted for.