Up to 50 people have likely been killed following the flooding of a makeshift artisanal gold mine in Kamituga, a town in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo, on Friday.
The governor of South Kivu province, where the town is located, Theo Ngwabidje Kasi, gave this figure on Saturday and noted that most of the victims were young.
The mayor of Kamituga, Alexandre Bundya, however said they are not yet certain of the exact number of casualties.
“19 families have come to look for their relatives,” he said, adding as of yesterday that no bodies had yet been recovered.
According to a local resident, Jean Nondo Mukambilwa, who spoke to AFP, only one body had been recovered from the scene and the mine, contrary to earlier reports, had not caved in. He said a river close to the mine became flooded following heavy rainfall.
“It was not a collapse. It was because of the rains that the accident happened,” Mukambilwa said.
“Water went into the three tunnels. When people tried to get out, there was no way as the water was flowing strongly, with high pressure.”
Meanwhile, Bundya dedicated two days for the mourning of the victims and urged residents to contribute to efforts to recover the bodies buried beneath the surface.
The civil society has called for the authorities to probe what led to the incident. Nicolas Kyalangalilwa, a representative of the civil society, said “investigations must be carried out to find out the causes of this disaster” and demanded that the government takes responsibility.
Last year, at least 43 artisanal miners were killed in a landslide that occured in Kolwezi, a town in the Lualaba Province. The industry is estimated to employ as many as 200,000 people in the country, which is reputed to provide up to two-thirds of the world’s cobalt supply.