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Page last updated at 11:04 GMT, Monday, 31 March 2008 12:04 UK

Hopes fade for Tanzanian miners

A file photo of a Mererani mine
Mererani mines like this one were damaged by the rainfall

About 65 miners are feared dead after rainfall triggered the collapse of mines in Tanzania, the government says.

Six bodies have so far been recovered in the Mererani region, about 40km (25 miles) south-east of Arusha in north-eastern Tanzania.

Rescuers say the flooding is hampering their efforts and there is little hope of finding anyone else alive.

The area mines Tanzanite, a valuable blue gemstone found only in a small area near Arusha.

Ten years ago more than 100 Tanzanite miners died in an accident caused by heavy rain.

"We are still working to see how to rescue the bodies, because personally, I don't think there's hope of getting them alive," Local MP Christopher Ole Sendeka told Reuters news agency at the scene of rescue efforts.

Resource rich

A regional commissioner, Henry Shekifu, told Associated Press news agency the men went missing on Friday amid heavy rains.

map

The government is trying to deploy equipment that will drain the mines, he said.

He said the flooding had affected 100 people - 35 had escaped the pit alive, six bodies had been found, and another 59 were missing.

He was jeered by some miners, as he addressed them at the pit entrance on Sunday, the French news agency AFP reported.

"You come with Land Cruisers instead of machines to help us pull out colleagues," said one of the miners.

Thousands of workers have been drawn to Mererani to mine the Tanzanite.

Tanzania is also rich in diamonds, emeralds, rubies and sapphires and is Africa's third-largest gold producer.

The mining sector has boomed with economic liberalisation policies applied in the mid-1980s.


video and audio news
The mine manager describes what happened



SEE ALSO
Tanzania suspends gem mining
22 Jun 02 |  Africa
Timeline: Tanzania
08 Feb 08 |  Country profiles
Country profile: Tanzania
15 Jan 08 |  Country profiles


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