CAR gold mine collapse toll hits 52

2013-06-27 11:42

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Bangui - The number of people killed when a gold mine in the Central African Republic collapsed at the weekend rose to 52, local officials said on Wednesday.

The previous toll for the disaster, which occurred on Sunday when a landslide destroyed a pit in Ndassima in the centre of the country, stood at 37.

"From the figure of 37 dead on the day of the tragedy, we now have a count of 52 bodies recovered," Didier Ouangai, mayor of the nearby city of Bambari, told AFP.

"The entire population of the Ouaka region is mourning. People can't stop crying. Just imagine, seven members of a same family perished. It is a real tragedy," he said.

Another local official said it was feared the toll could rise even further since 64 miners were known to have been working in the pit, at a depth of around 18m, when the landslide struck.

"We are using moto taxis to transfer the bodies to their families in Bambari," said Jules Gatien Wenceslas Zengagba, a young gold miner taking part in the search effort.

"As soon as this rain-induced collapse happened, it was clear there would be no survivors. In some cases, we retrieved severed heads, this is how we tallied up the casualties," said Mahamat Saleh Ndomakossi, a local official.

The government has declared three days of national mourning from Tuesday.

The gold and diamond mining sectors are key to the economy of the highly unstable, landlocked nation. The diamond business provides directly and indirectly for about a quarter of the population of some 4.5 million.

The infrastructure is rudimentary however, and the Central African Republic has remained one of the world's poorest and least developed countries despite its mineral wealth.

Ndassima lies in territory controlled by former rebels of the Seleka alliance, who ousted president Francois Bozize in March.

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