Africa

Liberia illicit gold mine collapse: Five bodies found

Illicit goldmine in Liberia Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Liberia is rich in mineral deposits - and full of illicit mines

The bodies of five people have been recovered from a collapsed pit in an illicit gold mine in north-eastern Liberia, a local official has said.

Around 35 people are still believed to be missing after the walls of the pit caved in on Saturday.

The search for the dead and for any survivors is being carried out without specialist equipment by miners using their bare hands.

The gold field in Nimba County is a major centre for illicit mining.

According to the county administrator, David Dorr Cooper, more than 100,000 people work in the mine, near the town of Tapeta.

He said the field attracts workers from across the region, some of whom are armed. He described the area around the mine as "lawless".

Local authorities have so far failed in their efforts to shut down the unregulated site.

Poverty and a weak economy mean there is no shortage of Liberians willing to risk death in illicit gold mines, says the BBC's Jonathan Paye-Layleh in the capital, Monrovia.

Mr Cooper told the BBC that the miners conducting the rescue operation themselves faced dangerous conditions in the pit.

They were using their hands to remove debris, he said, and would not use excavators - even if these were available - because of the risk of harming any trapped survivors.

The five bodies recovered on Wednesday had been swiftly buried because they were already decomposing, he said.

A senior doctor at Jackson F Doe Memorial Hospital in Tappita told the BBC he had been treating survivors from Saturday's disaster for cuts, broken limbs and dehydration.

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