The bodies of 24 gold miners have been recovered from a flooded mine in Zimbabwe, and rescuers have pulled out eight survivors who had been trapped underground, the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation reported.
Authorities said the accident happened after shafts and underground tunnels where the illegal miners were working became flooded by water from a burst dam last Tuesday. The survivors were rescued last Saturday at the mine located 90 miles southwest of the capital, Harare.
Zimbabwe’s deputy mines minister, Polite Kambamura, on Monday said search operations would continue in the area, saying that around 70 workers are feared trapped in the incident.
Kambamura said rescuers were experiencing difficulties accessing the area due to the size of the shafts in the flooded tunnel.
A photo from the scene of the disaster showed one of the rescued miners covered in thick brown mud being pulled from a pit at the mines.
Victor Rupende from the Zimbabwe Miners Federation, one of the groups coordinating the search, told CNN heavy rains have also hampered rescue operations at the mine.
Zimbabwe President Emmerson Mnangagwa declared the incident a national disaster, adding that the government will continue to provide assistance to those working to find the missing miners.
Families and residents awaiting the news of their loved ones have camped out at the mining site in Battlefields, a rural settlement rich in gold deposits, where artisanal mining is common.
Henrietta Rushwaya, president of the Zimbabwe Miners Federation, urged the government to formalize the operations of artisanal miners to promote safety in the sector.
Zimbabwe is rich in minerals such as diamonds, uranium, chrome, platinum and gold. Revenues from the industry still account for about 30% of government income.