Zimbabwe gold mine flood death toll reaches 24 as search for survivors continues

Eight survivors and 24 dead bodies have been pulled out of a flooded gold mine in Zimbabwe.

Key points

  • An estimated 70 miners were working in the gold mine when it was flooded on February 16
  • So far 24 bodies have been recovered, with eight men rescued
  • Zimbabwe has declared the tragedy a national disaster and asked for outside funding

It is believed about 70 miners were underground when a burst dam flooded the illegal mine on February 16.

One of the survivors all the escape routes were flooded and he had nowhere to go, leaving him standing in one spot for days with water up to his neck.

"I never expected to get out of there alive," Simon Moyo said.

"I was standing in water which reached my neck for the past four or so days. For all those days I never slept or ate anything."

Crowds cheered as they watched some of the miners pulled out alive, soaking wet and caked in mud.

Some looked dazed and one was unable to walk and had to be carried to a tent for medical treatment.

Zimbabwe, which is in the depths of an economic crisis, has pleaded for outside funding for the ongoing rescue.

It has asked for $US200,000 ($280,000) to pay for pumps, to feed rescue workers and to pay for the burials of victims.

"Given the magnitude of this disaster, we kindly appeal to individuals, development partners and the corporate world for assistance in cash and kind," local minister July Moyo said.

Loved ones gathering at the mine

Rescuers have so far built wooden platforms and used hand-cranked cable systems to pull out survivors.

Various local mining companies have been helping with the operation.

The trapped miners' loved ones and other miners have been gathered at the disaster site, about 150 kilometres from the capital Harare.

"My son is in there. I did not see him when they brought out the others," Sekai Maziwisa said.

"No-one is saying anything. How are we supposed to know what is happening?"

Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa has declared the mine tragedy a national disaster.

The mine is owned by RioZim, which separated from parent company Rio Tinto in 2004.

The men working illegally in gold mines in Zimbabwe are mostly young and use picks to search for minerals in the shafts.

Zimbabwe faces high unemployment, with 90 per cent of people working in the informal economy.


By Siobhan Heanue / ABC's South Asia correspondent

Siobhan Heanue is the ABC's South Asia correspondent, based in New Delhi. She was one of the only foreign journalists in Nepal when an earthquake struck in 2015, killing 9,000 people. She earned a Walkley nomination for her reporting on the disaster. Siobhan also reported from Iraq in the lead up to the battle for Mosul in 2016, before being appointed South Asia correspondent in 2017. Siobhan began her career with the ABC as a cadet in the Canberra newsroom. You can follow her on Twitter: @siobhanheanue.

(Source: abc.net.au; http://tinyurl.com/y33kwpex)
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