Around 50 feared dead in DR Congo mine flooding
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About 50 people are feared dead after an artisanal gold mine flooded in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo after torrential rain, a provincial governor said Saturday.
The accident in the makeshift mine occurred on Friday in the town of Kamituga, in South Kivu province, about 270 kilometres (170 miles) southwest of the regional capital Bukavu.
DR Congo’s mineral-rich but volatile east faces regular attacks from a plethora of militias and rebel groups which operate freely in the region.
South Kivu governor Theo Ngwabidje Kasi deplored “the tragic deaths of 50 people, most of them young”.
However, Kamituga mayor Alexandre Bundya said “we are not yet sure of the exact number” of victims.
No bodies had been recovered so far, he said, adding that “19 families have come to look for their relatives”.
DR Congo President Felix Tshisekedi said he was “deeply saddened” and asked the government to “take strong measures so that such tragedies are not repeated.”
A local resident at the scene, Jean Nondo Mukambilwa, told AFP that only one body had been found so far.
Torrential rain had flooded a river close to the mine, and dismissed an earlier report that the mine had caved in, he said.
“It was not a collapse. It was because of the rains that the accident happened,” he explained.
“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.”
Hundreds of people gathered at the entrance to one of the tunnels, a video sent to AFP by the witness showed.
Men using shovels were trying to clear the entrance to the narrow passageway, as Red Cross workers stood waiting.
The mayor decreed two days of mourning and called on locals to help extract the bodies from the ground.
“Investigations must be carried out to find out the causes of this disaster,” said a representative of civil society, Nicolas Kyalangalilwa.
“The authorities must take responsibility instead of taxing” these miners.
Accidents in DR Congo’s makeshift mines are common and often deadly. (AFP)