BATTLEFIELDS – At least 23 informal gold miners have been killed in flooded tunnels of TWO disused mines in the Central ZIMBABWE area of BATTLEFIELDS.

Gold panner going down (Pic. Agencies)

THE HERALD says the tragedy occurred after heavy rains caused the walls of a local dam to burst and release huge volumes of water at about midnight TUESDAY into the shafts of CRICKET Mine owned by RIOZIM and another owned by a Mr BAXTER.

The State-run daily says the TWO mines have THREE linked shafts going down for some 30 metres deep and with tunnels that are 20 metres wide each.

Authorities have expressed fear the number of people killed could rise, because chances of rescuing any survivors are slim and the water levels in the tunnels continue to rise.

MASHONALAND WEST Provincial Administrator CECILIA CHITIYO says they have activated their regional Civil Protection Unit to offer assistance.

She says the authorities need to mobilise more pumps urgently because the water levels are continuously rising from beneath, and they are not sure if the affected miners had not reached an aquifer below.

Police have collected corpses of panners over the years (Pic. Agencies)

MHONDORO-NGEZI District Administrator FORTUNATE MAZULU has visited the TWO mines and she has also told THE HERALD chances of rescuing any survivors are very slim.

She says the names of people believed to have been trapped has reached 23, with 19 reportedly trapped at the RIOZIM-owned mine and another FOUR at the other mine.

Ms MAZULU says the informal miners have been entering the shafts and tunnels under the cover of darkness, without the knowledge of mine owners, and disappearing early in the morning.

She says rescue operations are also difficult because the shafts are flooded to the surface, which is why they have had to call ZIMPLATS Company to help with their bigger pumps to drain the water and enable retrieval of the bodies.

RIOZIM Spokesperson WILSON GWATIRINGA has also visited the site, saying efforts are underway to drain the water from the shafts.

The ZIMBABWE Ministry of Mines and Mining Development is leading the operations to retrieve the bodies of the killed miners and rescue survivors, if any, from the flooded disused mine tunnels./Sabanews/cam

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