Three women die as gold mine collapses in West Pokot

West Pokot mines

Miners in deep gold mines at Seger, in Segor, West Pokot County. Three women died on Tuesday morning at a gold mine in Nyelnyel.

Photo credit: Pool I Nation Media Group

Three women died while two others sustained injuries after a gold mine collapsed on Tuesday at Nyelnyel, West Pokot County.

A witness, Farah Murilla told the Nation that the women who were excavating gold were buried in the rubble in the morning disaster.

He said the women between aged 20 to 32 years, were buried alive and their bodies have been retrieved from the rubble by locals.

"Most of the women engage in gold mining unlike men, some were rescued but the three could not survive," he said.

The area assistant chief Philomena Karotich confirmed the incident.

"The three among five women were fending for their families, in the process they were buried alive. They visit the gold pits on a daily basis," she said.

She noted that the rescue mission started at 9am and by 1pm, they had retrieved three bodies.

The chief added that the pits are dangerous and the fact that miners could only reach the victims and bodies using traditional mining tools such as drills and spades complicated the rescue.

She confirmed the three as Chepurai Loyole, Chepokopil Louyolan and Chesoton Lotobo from Naurien and Katumwonoi villages.

She added that the injured are being treated at Sigor sub-county hospital nursing minor injuries. 

"The three who succumbed were 15 feet deep while the two rescued were way above the pit," she said.

She said men in the region have become reluctant in fending for their families thus exposing teh owmen to danger.

“Women especially from Akiriment and Tikit decided to go to the mines to get Sh250 per day. There is hunger and the government should intervene,” said Ms Karotich.

Pokot Central police boss  Nelson Omwenga cited that hunger has pushed residents into gold mining yet it is a dangerous venture.

“Our hard working mothers went to the gold mines to look for money to buy food but unfortunately fate befell them”, he said.

Mr Omwenga called on residents to look for alternative ways of survival.

“We urge residents to engage in other businesses rather than engaging in mining gold,” said Mr Omwenga.

Pokot Central Deputy County Commissioner Jeremiah Tumoh Koech said that he visited the scene and his team is investigating how the tragedy happened.

Some 44,000 residents of West Pokot are in dire need of food assistance due to the drought that has depleted pastures and water sources, threatening pastoralism, according to data from the National Drought Management Authority (NDMA).