Marikana (South Africa): South African investigators on Saturday probed the police killing of 34 striking platinum miners, as the nation sought answers following the deadliest protest since apartheid.

Armored cars and police trucks patrolled the area around London-listed Lonmin's Marikana platinum mine while a helicopter circled above the spot where officers opened fire on hundreds of workers on Thursday.

More than 1,000 miners were gathered nearby, still traumatised by the incident, while others trickled into the mine's hospital hoping to find out if missing loved ones were dead, wounded or in jail.

The crackdown Thursday left 34 dead, 78 wounded and 259 detained, according to police.

The toll came on top of 10 dead in attacks blamed on attributed to rivalry between unions during the weeklong strike to back demands for a wage rise.

A caravan outside the hospital was set up to provide information on the dead and wounded. Hospital security kept journalists from entering, appealing for privacy for the families.

Meanwhile, two separate investigations were getting underway in addition to one launched by the police, whose forensics experts combed through the scene for a third day.

The Independent Police Investigative Directorate has opened what is likely to be a lengthy probe into the deaths at the mine, in addition to a national commission of inquiry announced by President Jacob Zuma.

"There's various investigations, there's a lot of experts involved, it will take some time," police spokesman Dennis Adriao said.

"The national commissioner did mention that we will give our full cooperation with any of the investigations into the very, very sad, tragic event."

The directorate said in a statement that its probe would determine whether police gave a "proportional" response by firing live rounds into a crowd of workers armed mainly with machetes, spears and clubs.

No violence has been reported since Thursday's crackdown was captured on camera and broadcast to the nation.

Top labour leaders urged workers to remain calm, hoping to defuse the deadly rivalry between two miners unions.

"Workers must calm down and allow leaders to address their issues," Sidumo Dlamini, president of the powerful Cosatu trade federation, said on national radio.

"It doesn't matter now which union you belong to, there is a crisis, let's normalise and create a platform where people will be free to express themselves, people will be free to say their demands under a normal situation."

(Agencies)

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