17 May 2014

Mozambique: Death Toll in Mine Collapse Rises

Photo: David Morton/IRIN
Illegal miners (file photo).

Maputo — The known death toll from the collapse of an illegal gold mine in Memba district, in the northern Mozambican province of Nampula, has reached nine, according to a report in Saturday's issue of the Maputo daily “Noticias”.

The Minister of Mineral Resources, Esperanca Bias, travelled to Memba on Saturday, to accompany the attempts to find survivors and recover bodies.

Since the collapse occurred on Monday morning, the chances of finding anybody still alive must be regarded as remote. In the early stages of the rescue operation, 15 people were pulled out still alive.

One of them was seriously injured, and is currently undergoing medical treatment in the Memba health centre.

It is feared that the final death toll could be as anywhere between 40 and 70. Nobody seems to know exactly how many people were inside the mine when it collapsed.

The bodies that have been recovered so far were in an advanced state of decomposition, and had to be buried immediately in the vicinity of the mine. Most of them could not be identified, since they were not carrying any documents.

A month ago the Memba authorities had ordered the closure of the mine, which is in an area known as Namajuba, and were preparing to remove thousands of artisanal miners digging for gold in the area. Clearly their orders were ignored, with tragic results.

The Memba district permanent secretary, Felisberta Joaquim, told “Noticias” that most of those digging in the mine were from Nampula, and the neigbouring provinces of Cabo Delgado and Zambezia, but some had come from Tanzania.

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