KADOMA, – Twenty-four bodies have been retrieved from the Battlefields Mine disaster as rescue operations continue to search for survivors.
They have laboured for 24 hours and the fatigue is showing but they are racing against time as their colleagues are trapped precariously in the waters below these shafts.
They worry about the fate of their colleagues many of whom they barely said goodbye less than 96 hours ago.
Their hope has, however, been dealt a major blow after 24 bodies were confirmed drowned casting a deep sense of sorrow on this community.
Hope had been revived by the eight individuals who came out alive in the morning rescue, but that has fast faded into a boulevard of broken expectations on news of the 24 recovered bodies, and there could be more, as rescue operations have been halted due to rising water levels.
Search teams continued work above ground despite the setback, but the relentless water flows are proving treacherous, prompting more pleas for help.
Silently friends and relatives are sending prayers, all in the hope of seeing their loved ones walking out alive.
Meanwhile, eight miners were rescued in the morning with the first survivor said to have been rescued at around 07:10 hours.
The eight rescued have since received medical attention and are in a stable condition.
Rescue operations are still continuing to retrieve the bodies of the remaining trapped miners.
Government on Friday put the number of those who entered the shafts at 70, a revision from earlier state media reports of 23 trapped in the tunnels.
Government and mining firms, Zimplats and RioZim have supplied equipment, food and beer for the rescue team.
Relatives who have spent the better part of the week camped in the area were also being fed, with Local Government Minister July Moyo saying Friday that up to US$200 000 could be required to complete the entire operation of retrieving bodies, feeding family members and transporting the deceased to their different burial areas in the country.
Joseph Chitiki, father to Cosmas and also a brother to Xavier, both of whom were still missing Saturday, said although he was clutching onto diminishing hope of finding his loved ones alive, he was still not happy about the CPU’s haphazard approach to dealing with the emergency.
“We cannot tolerate a CPU with no central command; the army is doing as it pleases and so is the police,” he said.
“They are disorganised and this is hampering any chances of finding more survivors as we still hope.
“I have been here since Wednesday and the CPU has not been of much help.”
Chegutu West MP, Dexter Nduna who was part of the team retrieving the bodies, questioned Zimbabwe’s disaster preparedness in cases of similar emergencies.
“Last week, I approached parliament and called on the Minister of Mines to address three issues which include the state of disaster management preparedness; this is not the first time such an occurrence has happened.
“It happened in my constituency in 2015. The disaster management preparedness leaves a lot to be desired,” said Nduna.
The Zanu PF legislator also accused government of not doing enough to protect artisanal miners yet they contributed the larger chunk of gold to state owned Fidelity Printers.
Nduna suggested that a fund be set up where at least 30 percent of gold proceeds are retained for development, safety training and capacitation of artisanal miners so as to avert similar disaster.
Dewatering efforts continues into the fifth day on Sunday.
Addressing his election Thank-You rally in Mwenezi Saturday afternoon, President Emmerson Mnangagwa said the nation’s hearts were with the deceased miners. – New Zim