Kinyenye Furaha passed out from shock when he realised a mine collapse in eastern Congo had buried more than 50 fellow miners including his brother, he said on Sunday, as the hunt continued for bodies two days after the disaster.
Miners searching the site near the town of Kamituga in Democratic Republic of Congo have so far recovered 18 bodies, after heavy rains on Friday caused the artisanal gold mine to cave in, burying those working below ground.
Before the rain started, Furaha had left the site to remove some large rocks. Soon after, a child ran up to say water was rising in the mine, Furaha told Reuters.
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“We went back there and found only the pit filled with water. And that’s when I lost consciousness,” he said.
Dozens of people die each year in accidents in largely unregulated artisanal mines in Congo, where often ill-equipped diggers borrow deep underground in search of ore.
This time, miners were caught out because the wet season is yet to get fully underway, said Kamituga Mayor Alexandre Bundia.
“The main problem is that people did not heed the rain,” he said outside his office in the mining town in Congo’s mountainous and mineral-rich South Kivu province.
Scores of men in rubber boots gathered again on Sunday at the mine site on a muddy hillside. A rescue team passed sacks of earth out of the pit in the search for the buried miners, who are all presumed dead.
Recovery efforts will continue on Monday morning, local official Kimbulungu Kyalondawa said.
Back in Kamituga, women gathered to mourn their lost relatives. Sitting close together on the floor, they stared into the distance without speaking, while one held a sleeping baby to her chest.