KINSHASA, Democratic Republic of Congo

At least 50 artisanal miners were killed when a gold mine collapsed in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, authorities said on Saturday.

The incident occurred on late Friday in the town of Kamituga, nearly 200 kilometers (124 miles) west of Bukavu, capital of South Kivu province.

In a statement on Saturday, Theo Kasi, governor of South Kivu province, deplored “the tragic death of 50 people, mostly young people.”

Without giving further details, Kasi said search and rescue operations “to identify our compatriots are ongoing.”

Heavy rains recorded on Thursday and Friday caused the Njali river, located less than 1 kilometer from the gold mine, to overflow.

“The miners could not rush out because the well was already filled with water and mud,” Ngandu Kamundala, Kamituga’s deputy mayor, told Anadolu Agency.

“Their bodies have been buried under the rubble, there is no chance that there will be any survivors,” he said.

Local authorities have declared two days of mourning.

Speaking to Anadolu Agency, Jason Aruni, representative of a miners’ union, termed the Kamituga gold mine “a cemetery where many people are buried regularly,” referring to fatal accidents occurring on regular basis.

Poor and young artisanal miners are the main suppliers of minerals to large international companies through counters located in the capitals of the provinces which bring them out of Congolese territory.

A few weeks ago, nine people were killed in a landslide that occurred in a village located in territory of Kasongo.

At least 27 artisanal miners were killed when a gold mine collapsed in the country’s Upper-Uele province last year.

Most mine collapses and landslides in the Central African country have been triggered by ongoing heavy rains.

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