Tewor District, Grand Cape Mount County – Residents of Grand Cape Mount County woke up Tuesday, May 5 to the news of a massive mudslide in Abdul Field, a major artisanal mine in Mendemassa Clan in Tewor District.
News had earlier spread that 50 persons were trapped under the huge piled of mud as locals fear many miners had already died.
But following a search and rescue operation, it was later established that at least two persons had died and two were critically injured.
Many of them were thought to be illicit miners – some coming from out of the county.
Locals were joined by county officials and members of the county health team as they watched in anxiety excavator digging through the red earth to rescue the miners who were still trapped under the rumble.
Men dressed in white personal protective equipment (PPE) were also seen removing the two dead bodies.
“I know this other young man, he is a driver and his car is parking right in the town. He is not from here. He just came on break because nothing much is happening,” said Lahai Massaquoi, town chief of Bangomah, after one of the corpse was discovered.
“I am his stranger father and I don’t even know that he joined the other people to come here. I don’t even know what to say but am in touch with his family members.”
Over a dozen miners were rescued and some locals said the rush for gold might have caused the mudslide.
Sao Gataweh is one of the survivors. He told reporters that he had joined others, who were digging the pit, to “hustle” when the incident occurred.
“The dirt held us at our waist and that’s how we started calling for help and three guys came and started moving the dirt from on us,” explains Gataweh, who only remembered that they were 14 persons in the pit when the incident happened.
“The reason why I joined them is because my wife is pregnant and no job so I wanted to do this work to get some money.”
Mr. Haji Jaliebah, District Commissioner of Tewor, was impressed with the search and rescue effort. He added that he was relieved that the two confirmed dead clarified the misinformation of that 50 people had died.
“I felt so bad because it happened in my district but what impressed me a lot is that after our entire search we found out that only two persons died. That is to say the information that went across was not factual,” he said.
Residents said it was the “first major mining incident” in the Mendemassa Clan in Tewor District, describing it as “a sad day”. But many were glad that the death toll was below what was rumored immediately after the accident.
“For us, we are happy that the number that was reported by one journalist was not true,” said Melvin B. Kamara, a prominent resident of Tienii town.
The Abdul Gold Mine is being operated by Abdul Swaray, a Class “C” licensee authorized by the Ministry of Mines and Energy to operate in the county.
The mine has now been ordered closed by the Ministry of Mines and Energy allowing excavators to continue working in order to avoid a reoccurrence.