KWEKWE, Zimbabwe (AP) — Zimbabwe’s rescue agency said Friday it has ended operations at a mine where two people died after being trapped underground.
Nathan Nkomo, director of the Civil Protection Unit, told The Associated Press that “we have retrieved all the bodies.” An injured miner was taken to a hospital, he said.
Nkomo and police spokesman Paul Nyathi said they could not confirm the number of people underground. Due to the unregulated nature of the mining, it is “impossible to know how many people are underground at any given time,” Nkomo said.
He said the mine was no longer operational and had been taken over by artisanal miners who use rudimentary and unsafe mining methods.
It was quiet at the scene in the gold-rich town of Kwekwe in central Zimbabwe, with only a handful of miners milling around and seemingly unmoved by the deaths.
“Two people (dead) … that’s not a disaster. It happens all the time in these mines,” said Davison Chidhakwa, a fellow miner.
Hundreds of artisanal miners work in disused mines in the area connected by a network of tunnels.
Chidhakwa said he had come from a local hospital to check on the miner rescued on Thursday.
“He had some head injuries but he has already been discharged. He is fine,” he said.
Deep gullies and abandoned, rusty equipment lay around. A diesel generator used to power a water pump was the only sign of functional equipment at the site.
A survivor, Bekithemba Takawira, said his “syndicate” of five people were most affected by the collapse of a mine shaft that occurred after the miners entered on Wednesday.
“I had left briefly to collect my tools in the other side of the tunnel. On my return I found my colleagues crushed by huge rock,” he said.
“People enter the mine from all directions. I can’t say how many people were underground,” he said.