Help us retrieve the bodies, Zim government pleads

15 February 2019 - 19:54 By James Thompson
Illegal gold miners work at an open mine in Mazowe, Zimbabwe, on April 5 2018. File picture.
Illegal gold miners work at an open mine in Mazowe, Zimbabwe, on April 5 2018. File picture.
Image: REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo/File Photo

The government of Zimbabwe is appealing to the public, non-governmental organisations and the corporate sector for US$200,000 (more than R2.8m) to help recover the bodies and burials of at least 60 miners who are feared dead after being trapped in two disused mining shafts.

Rescue efforts began on Friday, but there are no reports of survivors at Cricket Mine 3 and Jongwe Mining Cooperative at Battlefields, 175km west of Harare. Government estimates there are between 50 and 60 miners trapped in shafts that go 100m deep. Heavy rains and a burst dam flooded the two mine shafts they had entered.

With the Civil Protection Unit (CPU) - a government-funded disaster organisation - incapacitated, government is appealing for money.

"An estimated US$200,000 is required to pump out the water, feeding bereaved families and teams on the ground, transportation and burial of victims in the responsible districts. Given the magnitude of the disaster, we kindly appeal to individuals, development partners and the corporate world for assistance in cash and in kind," said the minister of local government, public works and national housing, July Moyo.

The mine mishap has been declared a national disaster, with President Emmerson Mnangagwa saying that "extraordinary measures" were needed to assist with rescue efforts.

By midday on Friday, at least a hundred artisanal miners had started their own rescue mission without government assistance.

Cricket 3 Mine had four youths trapped by Friday evening, and government said it would be hard to rescue them because the mine shaft is the deepest and is also flooded.

In the past few days parts of Zimbabwe has been hit by heavy rainfall. Chiredzi, in the south eastern part of the country, more than 50 houses and property worth thousands of dollars have been destroyed.

On Friday residents were forced to abandon their homes as water cascaded into houses due to the town’s poor drainage. No deaths or missing persons have been reported.

According to the Meteorological Services Department (MSD), the recent rains broke a 42-year-old record in Chiredzi, where 203 millimetres (mm) fell on Wednesday. The last record of 98mm was recorded in 1977.