Chegutu mine disaster death toll rises to 10 as hundreds throng scene


CHEGUTU – The number of miners who have died in a tragic Bayhorse Mine disaster in Chakari, 30km north of Chegutu, has risen to 10, according to mine officials on Saturday. 

But Vice President Constantino Chiwenga said Saturday the number could be as high as 13.

The tragic incident was caused by a mine shaft collapse which occurred at 10AM on Friday. Four bodies had been retrieved when ZimLive visited the mine Saturday afternoon.

ZimLive reported that mine owner Tendai Sigauke was nowhere to seen with unconfirmed reports suggesting he had gone into hiding. In this image men battle in a rescue operation to retrieve bodies of mine workers in an operation described as difficult [IMAGE/ZIMLIVE]

These bodies have been identified by their next of kin while rescue workers battled to retrieve five other bodies they located trapped under a large rock boulder.

Three more mine workers were yet to be located Saturday, according to mine officials.

Bayhorse Mine blasting engineer Hussein Phiri, in an interview, said it is very difficult to remove the bodies as the mine shaft was still collapsing.

“We could hear the other side of the mine collapsing as we were underground.

“So our lives are also at risk but we are trying our best to retrieve the bodies.

“There are three bodies we are yet to locate but we can clearly see six bodies but it has been difficult to get closer to them because there is a large rock boulder supporting the ground above them while standing on our way.

“If we remove that boulder, it’s most likely that the whole mine will collapse on us.

“It’s becoming too dangerous for us each time we try but we are doing our best,” he said.

Phiri said the located miners were all dead.

“We are convinced all the six are dead,” he said.

Mines minister Soda Zhemu, who also spent the day at the mine, said 34 miners were underground during the time of the collapse.

“Immediately after the collapse, 13 people managed to escape unhurt. That leaves 21 people who were underground.

“During the night, about eight people were rescued out of the 21.

“Three bodies have been accounted for and confirmed as deceased. That leaves 10 people underground,” he said.

Zhemu said government, through DDC, was coordinating efforts to help in the rescue operation.

“We are already talking to the DDC for checkout.

“She was telling us that they convened a meeting with various stakeholders to come up with assistance that will be required already.

“Some mine big minds have been approached. And they are in the process of providing assistance in terms of the retrieval of the people that are still underground.

“Not only that, we have also managed to come into the space to also give assistance.

“…As for how easy or difficult is it been, are we confident that all will be released.”

Added the minister, “it shows that a space of about 100 meters by 20 meters is what is actually collapsed.

“It requires removal of the boulders that have just closed the way.

“So at this point, I wouldn’t be very certain to say it is going to be easy. It’s going to be difficult unless a report has been provided.

“…We’re also trying to do some evaluations to ascertain whether the rescue operations would be successfully conducted.”

Over a thousand mourners from the area, including families of the victims were at the scene impatiently waiting for retrieval of the victims.

ZimLive witnessed retrieval of one body of a miner as a sad atmosphere engulfed the area.

The miner’s mother, who had two sons trapped, wailed even before she got to know the fate of her son after just noticing his shoes.

Mine owner, Tendai Sigauke was nowhere to seen with unconfirmed reports suggesting he had gone into hiding.

One survivor, Johannes Nyautete, 33, who escaped unhurt, said working conditions at the mine were very bad adding it was a question of time before disaster struck.

“All (Sigauke) he is worried about is taking gold. We have complained on endless occasions that the mine should be supported with pillars, but he never cared.

“There is not a single pillar supporting the ground, yet there should be timber pillars.

“Sigauke never cares about our welfare and was in a habit of firing warning shots at us while we worked underground accusing us of stealing his gold,” he said.

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