Two miners pulled out of collapsed Siaya mine after 3 days

Collapsed mine

A multiagency team conducts a rescue operation in Abimbo village, Bondo sub-county, on December 03, 2021.

Photo credit: Tonny Omondi | Nation Media Group

Two more artisanal miners were on Sunday pulled out of the collapsed mine in Abimbo village, South Sakwa in Bondo Sub County.

The two, who were pulled out of the pit at 7am, were in critical condition and had to be rushed to the Bondo Sub County Hospital for treatment.

Family members and relatives were overjoyed after the two were rescued despite nursing injuries. They were identified as Michael Onyango and Bernard Ochieng.

Siaya Deputy County Commissioner Richard Karani said: “Mr Ochieng was pulled out at 7 am but had grown weak after spending four days in the quarry, he needed urgent medical attention.”

Mr Onyango had sustained hands and waist injuries. Five miners have so far been rescued from the mine while one succumbed to his injuries on Saturday.

Thirty six year old Livingstone Odhiambo was pulled out of the rubble unscathed on Saturday after spending 36 hours in the pit. He said they had been working at the mining site for the past one week before the tragedy struck.

"We heard a loud rumble which violently shook the soils in the mine and knew all was not well,” said Mr Odhiambo.

Struggled for survival

After the collapse of the mine, Mr Odhiambo said, the trapped miners struggled for survival as the high temperatures weakened their bodies. Four other families were still camping at the gold mine as the rescue operation continued on Sunday. 

Siaya County Deputy Governor James Okumbe said the devolved unit was working closely with the Red Cross team and other volunteers since Thursday evening to ensure the other miners are rescued.

 “We have two ambulances on the ground. We donated an excavator, fire engine, oxygen supply , fuel and snacks to ensure the rescue teams remain at the site and carry on with the job to save the lives," said Mr Okumbe.

As the rescue mission entered the fourth day, the teams involved in efforts to excavate the soils and remove the debris were racing against time to try and save the lives of four miners who are still trapped in the mine.

The slow pace of the rescue operations at the mine has raised questions on the county government’s preparedness to deal with disasters and other emergencies.

Siaya County Disaster Management Unit Officer George Aola said many counties were struggling to build capacity to tackle disasters.

 “For a long time, mining has been listed as a responsibility of the national government leaving us with very little to do during disasters,” he said.

Mr Aola confirmed that their role has been limited to availing their rescue services whenever the gold mines collapse and evacuate those affected.

 “Our hands are tied, while the gold mines have continued to claim lives, the best we can do is visit the areas during such disasters with our teams and offer the necessary help,” said Mr Aola.

He said lack of preparedness had contributed to the slow pace of the rescue mission.

 “The miners usually take a big risk while down the mines without proper safety measures put in place and this exposes them to risks,” said Mr Aola.

While mining has become a death trap for artisanal miners in Western Kenya, the national and county governments are yet to come up with proper measures to improve the safety standards for hundreds of people relying on it for a livelihood.

Several accidents in mining sites have been reported in the region including the May 6, 2021, tragedy in Ikolomani, Kakamega in which five miners died after a heavy downpour.

In February 2020, four miners died while 15 others were injured after a gold mine collapsed at Osiri, Migori County.