A 50-year old gemstone miner in Mwatate sub-county in Taita-Taveta County died on Tuesday evening after he suffocated in a deep mine where he was pumping water from an underground tunnel.
A helper who was in the tunnel with the deceased is admitted at Wesu Sub-County Hospital in stable condition.
Reuben Mwawughanga, the Chairperson of Mwachabo Community Based Organization (CBO) where the tragedy occurred, said the two identified as Mathias Mbaya, 50, and Peter Ngali, 28, had descended into the bottom of a deep tunnel to pump water from the flooded tunnel using a diesel-powered generator.
Afterwards, miners at the mouth of the mine got concerned after their frantic calls to the duo inside the ill-fated tunnel went unanswered. Rescuers clambered down the steep tunnel where they found the two unconscious miners.
They were pulled out and rushed to Kamutonga Dispensary before being transferred to Mwatate sub-county hospital for advanced resuscitation. When their condition worsened, they were referred to Moi County Referral Hospital for specialized treatment.
Confirming the incident, the Mwatate Deputy County Commissioner, Damaris Kimondo termed the death as a tragedy noting that the miners might have been affected by insufficient oxygen in the tunnel.
“They were using a generator to pump water from the narrow space and they might have been overwhelmed by lack of oxygen,” she said.
David Zowe, County Chair of Artisanal Miners Association, said there were very weak safety standards in the mines which put thousands of lives at risk, adding that the association had partnered with Taita-Taveta University to provide safety and security lessons for the miners to avoid accidents and other disasters in the course of mining activities.
By Wagema Mwangi