Five bodies were spotted in an illegal goldmine that collapsed in Ghana, a government official said Wednesday, as the search for at least 17 miners entered its fourth day.
The abandoned mine in Prestea-Nsuta, in the country’s Western Region, caved in on Sunday afternoon when the miners were resurfacing and just one body has been recovered so far.
Ghana’s Deputy Minister of Lands and Natural Resources, Benito Owusu-Bio, visited the site of the disaster and said five bodies had been seen in the mine.
“The rescue team has informed us they have located so far a lot of bodies, they can easily make out five of them,” he told local radio station Empire FM.
“They can see there are others behind them, but they are involved in a lot of stone debris. They are clearing the debris then after that they will bring them out.”
An ambulance had been called in case any victims could be saved, Owusu-Bio added.
He said the rescue operation was taking time in order to avoid further collapses.
“We don’t want to have on our hands any extra casualties,” he said.
Despite the length of time since the collapse, local people said they believed there were survivors.
Francis Eshum said a large crowd had gathered around the mine waiting for news. One anxious man said five members of his family members were trapped underground.
“We are still hopeful they will be able to rescue people, whether dead or alive,” Eshum told AFP.
“The atmosphere looks very sad. We are still relying on the people who have gone underground… we are almost helpless relying on them for any update.”
Eshum said the rescuers — made up of professional miners, police and soldiers — were struggling to access those trapped in the mine, which is more than 80 metres (260 feet) deep.
“Everybody is worried by what is happening,” he added.
The accident has been blamed on small-scale illegal gold mining, known in Ghana as “galamsey”.
The government recently cracked down on the activity after a national campaign called for an end to the practice citing harmful effects on waterways and forests.
Ghana is Africa’s second-largest gold producer and exports of the commodity, along with minerals and oil, drive the country’s economic growth.
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