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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Rescue Operation Mounts for Thousands of Trapped Miners

ELANDSRAND MINE, South Africa -- Some 850 miners remained trapped over two kilometers underground in a South African gold shaft Thursday after a daylong rescue effort.

The last of the 3,200, stranded when the electricity cable of the mine's lift was severed, were expected to be lifted out nearly 36 hours after the accident.

Up to 200 women were among those who were stuck in a cramped space in the mine, where temperatures could reach 40 degrees Celsius.

The accident at the Elandsrand mine prompted the government to order Harmony Gold, the world's fifth-biggest gold miner, to shut down operations at the mine for six weeks.

Jeanneth Makamu, exhausted and wearing green overalls, said she spent much of the time stranded thinking about her family. Her husband, who also works at the mine, escaped the accident.

"I was worried for my two children and my husband Steven. I met him as I came in the morning shift and he was walking out [after a nightshift]," said Makamu.

As she and others emerged from 2.2 kilometers underground they were handed food packages before they headed to their hostel accommodations.

At least one worker had to be treated by paramedics for dehydration. The miners were brought up slowly in a small lift to avoid risks, mining officials said.

Harmony Gold said the rescue was going smoothly and that those underground were being pumped clean air and water.

"It's a very serious incident, but it's under control," Harmony chief executive Graham Briggs said.

The mine's manager, Stan Bierschenk, said the morale of workers still stuck below ground was "fairly brittle."