Maputo — At least five people have died in the collapse of an illegal mine in Memba district, in the northern Mozambican province of Nampula, reports the independent television station STV.
The collapse happened on Monday night, when dozens of people, mostly young men, were working in the mine. There are contradictory reports as to whether they were mining for gold or for precious stones.
The STV report said that some 30 people had been trapped in the collapse. Without food or water, their chances of survival must be ranked as low.
According to the Memba district administration, a team from the fire brigade and the police has been sent to the mine, at Mazuia, some 50 kilometres from Memba town, to mount a rescue mission and recover bodies.
Illegal mining, by Mozambicans and by foreigners, has become commonplace in the northern provinces. Despite sporadic police crackdowns, the practice continues. The improvised mineshafts are death traps, and there have been many collapses in the past, although the Memba tragedy is likely to prove the worst.