Fuel shortage, fatigue slow down efforts to rescue Siaya miner

Abimbo mine

Local artisans help in rescue operations at Abimbo gold mine in Bondo, Siaya County, on December 8, 2021. Eight people have so far been rescued, one has died while one is still trapped in the mine. 

Photo credit: Tonny Omondi | Nation Media Group

The ongoing efforts to rescue a miner who is still trapped in the collapsed mine in Abimbo Village, Siaya County, have been slowed by a shortage of fuel and weary rescue teams.

Out of the ten miners who were trapped in the collapsed mine, Tom Okwach, 35, is yet to be pulled out of the rubble.

The rescue team of 60 people has been working day and night to clear the rubble and rescue the miner for the past 10 days in shifts.

Facing hurdles

In the last three days, the team has been facing hurdles in their quest to save Mr Okwach who is believed to be trapped in the 150-foot tunnel.  

On Sunday, the Siaya County government delivered 80 litres of fuel while the villagers contributed Sh15,000 to buy additional fuel to keep the excavator running.

But even as the team works to reach the place where Mr Okwach is believed to be trapped, the ground has been caving in.  

 “We had managed to pump out water from the quarry on Wednesday. Unfortunately when we were about to reach him (Okwach), the ground caved in forcing us to start working on a different shaft,” said Mr George Aola, the Siaya County Disaster Management Unit officer.

“On Thursday, we had made a similar effort  before the ground caved in, injuring two miners,” said Mr Aola.

Rescue operations

Siaya Sub County Commissioner Richard Karani said the rescue operations were still ongoing.

Eight miners were rescued alive while one succumbed to his injuries as he was pulled out of the rubble.

Mr Aola said the miner had been trapped in a deeper tunnel, making it difficult for the rescue team to reach him.

On Sunday, Mr Martin Sikuku, Mr Okwatch’s father and other family members were still camping near the mine. The family watched as the rescue team worked tirelessly to save their kin ten days after the tragedy.   

Meanwhile, mining companies have petitioned the government to invest in the industry to reduce  calamities associated with the business.

Ascore Mining Limited Director Mr Hilary Alila said the neglect of the industry had caused several miners their lives, hence the need for the government to support the business.

Mr Alila told Nation.Africa that had the government invested in the mining industry, the Abimbo gold mine tragedy in Bondo, Siaya County, where at least 10 miners were trapped before one died would have been prevented.

“We are appealing to the government to invest in the mining industry to save people from such calamities. Many unemployed youths are involved in artisanal mining to earn a living and it is the government’s responsibility to guarantee their safety,” Mr Alila said.

He lamented the slow pace of rescue operations at Abimbo, adding that the national government ought to have taken the first step during the rescue  operation.

 “We are also asking county governments where mining takes place to develop bylaws to guide the industry and save many innocent lives,” added Mr Alila.