Maputo — At least 16 illegal gold miners died on Monday night in the village of Nadjedje, in Rapale district, in the northern Mozambican province of Nampula, after a flash flood on the Meluli river took them by surprise.
The Meluli had been bone dry, but a torrential downpour caused its level to rise dramatically. The miners were overwhelmed and swept away.
After the incident, rescue efforts were launched but none of the missing 16 miners were found alive. On Tuesday nine bodies were spotted by a joint rescue team consisting of the National Criminal Investigation Service (SERNIC) and the Fire Brigade (SENSAP). The other seven bodies were found on Wednesday morning.
The Nampula Provincial Inspector of Mineral Resources and Energy, Adelto Cumbana, told AIM that some miners were fast asleep in the hut they had built in the dry river bed when the flood occurred. Others were still working as the group was mining in shifts.
"We believe that the gold miners were suddenly washed away by the strong current," Cumbana said.
The inspector did not rule out the possibility of finding more bodies as the gold prospectors had set up a small village with more than 50 people involved in the illegal activity.
The gold rush along the Meluli river started two weeks ago. When the Provincial Directorate of Mineral Resources and Energy noted an increasing presence of miners, they dispatched a team that dismantled the initial miners' hamlet. But the miners simply moved, and built makeshift huts along the river.
Recently Nadjedje has become a gold rush destination for many prospectors mainly youngsters seeking gold and other minerals. They come from several other Nampula districts such as Mogovolas, Moma, Angoche, Liupo, Murrupula and Mogincual.
Faruk Satar, the head of the Namaita administrative post, where Nadjedje is located, told reporters that the authorities had repeatedly warned the miners that they were in danger since, whenever it rains, the Meluli river swells rapidly presenting a serious risk to anyone in its path.