GOVERNMENT has declared a State of Disaster on the Bayhorse Mine accident at Chakari, Chegutu district, that killed nine employees and left several miners missing when a shaft collapsed, last Friday.
A total of 22 of the trapped miners had either escaped or rescued by Saturday.
In a post Cabinet media briefing Tuesday, Information Minister, Jenfan Muswere said the tragedy has since been declared a national emergency.
“Cabinet received updates on the Bayhorse mine disaster in Mashonaland West and the plane crash in Mashava in Masvingo province, which both occurred on 29 September 2023, as reported by the Minister Local Government and Public Works, Honourable Winston Chitando.
“Regarding the Bayhorse mine disaster, Cabinet advises that it has since been confirmed that a total of 39 miners were trapped in a kilometre-long tunnel at the mine on the fateful day.
“A total of 13 people escaped when the mine collapsed, nine were rescued, four bodies were retrieved, six are still trapped under a large boulder, while seven are missing,” said Muswere.
“Government had instituted the following interventions: A State of Disaster has been declared by His Excellency the President, Dr. Cde. E.D. Mnangagwa.
“The District Civil Protection Committee was activated, and it promptly reacted by assessing the situation and coordinating the response efforts, including engaging surrounding mining companies to assist in the rescue operations and establishing a Command Centre at the mine.
“The deceased have been accorded State-assisted funerals, which covers burial services, provision of grain and funds to manage the burials. The mine owner is providing food for the rescue team as well assisting with burial arrangements.”
The minister said efforts to retrieve the remaining bodies and account for the missing persons are ongoing.
This Monday, Minister of Mines, Soda Zhemu, made shocking revelations that the gold mine tragedy was a result of haphazard extraction methods which were supervised by unqualified personnel.
Zhemu blamed the mine authorities, led by one T. Sigauke, of conducting unsustainable mining techniques and wilfully disregarding enabling laws.
“The accident at Chakari happened as a result of non-compliance, so in as much as we could be talking of the water (logging), to us, the accident was mainly due to human error.
“We are also hearing that there was no qualified mine manager at the affected mine who could actually give guidance to what could be undertaken in the shafts,” Zhemu told journalists.
He acknowledged there were conflicting figures of fatalities, missing persons and survivors.
The ministry, Zhemu told journalists, was still awaiting official confirmation of exactly how many people died and those that survived, as well as the number of missing persons.
Sources told NewZimbabwe.com a joint search and rescue operation had by time of publishing managed to bring four bodies to the surface, while efforts to uplift other corpses were being thwarted by soft ground and a rock boulder that was blocking the tunnel leading to where the miners lay dead.
The number of fatalities is expected to rise as now the number of unaccounted for persons has risen from four to seven.
Some witnesses put the initial figure of trapped miners at between 40 and 44, but it was later revised to 34 then 39 today.
Meanwhile, by the afternoon of Monday, October 2, a search and rescue operation was still underway at the site while a memorial service was held at Chegutu Hospital mortuary for the four deceased miners, but only the late Godfrey Baro (26)’s body was paraded as others had already been laid to rest.
Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) national spokesperson, Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi confirmed the identities of the retrieved deceased miners as Godfrey Baro (26) of Mariyapera Compound, Chegutu, Tawanda Gavaza (28) of Musengezi Resettlement, Chegutu, and Lloyd Mashavave (40) of Waverly in Kadoma and Forbes Murombedzi (24) of Village 1, Musengezi, Zvimba. – (New Zimbabwe)