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A landslide at a copper mine in Chingola, Zambia, killed at least seven miners and has left dozens more missing.
Police and local authorities say that the group of miners, who were illegally digging at the mine, were buried alive in tunnels after heavy rains triggered landslides late Thursday night.
Zambian President Hakainde Hichilema addressed the tragedy via social media, saying, “We are saddened to hear about the tragic accident at a makeshift mine site in Chingola that has claimed many lives.”
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He continued, “Our prayers are with the families and loved ones of those who died in the accident. We express gratitude to the rescuers and volunteers working tirelessly to reach those still trapped.”
Home Affairs and Internal Security Minister Jack Mwiimbu previously addressed the tragedy before parliament on Friday.
“May I just inform the nation that we have a tragedy that is brewing in Chingola, where a number of our people have been affected by a collapse of the open pit,” Mwiimbu said. “We have more than 30 people under the rubble and we are struggling to retrieve them.”
A complete confirmation of the death count has not yet been released as authorities work to recover the bodies of over 20 miners now believed to be dead.
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“The bodies are not yet retrieved, as efforts are being made to retrieve them,” police spokesperson Rae Hamoonga said.
Chingola is approximately 248 miles north of Lusaka, the national capital.
The miners were reportedly engaged in illegal mining at the location without the knowledge of mine owners.
The southern African nation is among the top 10 biggest copper producers in the world. Cobalt is also mined in Chingola.
Chingola is home to one of the biggest open-pit mines in the world, which is a series of workings that stretch for more than 6.2 miles.
The area is marked by huge waste dumps made up of rock and earth that have been dug out of the mines.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.