Arusha, Tanzania — MININGREVIEW.COM — 31 March, 2008 – Tanzanian rescuers are still searching in heavy rains for 59 missing people after a tanzanite mine in the north of the country was flooded, killing at least six workers. The final death toll could therefore exceed 60.
Northern Manyara regional commissioner Henry Shekifu told Bloomberg News in a telephone interview from the site of the accident at Merelani, near the northern Tanzanian city of Arusha, that of the 158 workers in mine at the time of the torrential downpour and flooding on Friday, 93 had either escaped or been rescued. The remote gemstone mine is near the foot of Mount Kilimanjaro.
“I can’t tell yet whether we will find the missing, but I think the chances are slim because there is so much water,” he said. “We are trying to pump it out.” Reuters reports from Merelani that hopes are fading for the missing miners.
“We are moving water, adding air and searching for people” Shekifu told Bloomberg News. “It seems that the measures we’ve taken in the past are no longer adequate. We need to fix the drainage.” Witnesses are reported to have said that flood waters had entered eight pits and then spread to others, drowning working miners.”
The Daily News reported that volunteers had rushed to the scene on Saturday, and that the government had said it was bringing in equipment to drain the water as quickly as possible. However, electricity poles in the area had been brought down by the floods, the report added, and engineers were battling to restore power for rescuers.
The newspaper pointed out that 100 miners had died in similar floods in the area in 1998. It added that mining disasters were not uncommon in what it called “Tanzania’s wild north.” In 2002, at least 48 miners were suffocated when a compressor used to pump clean air into the gemstone mine failed.