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North-Western Burundi: Heavy rain kills 13 gold miners

“It took us two days up to Sunday afternoon,” said one of the rescue teams Photo File

Thirteen gold miners tragically lost their lives after the Rugogo river overrun due to torrential rain.

Witnesses report that a rainstorm struck the locality on the 31st of May, 2023 which burst the Rugogo banks’ river. Its waters ended up in two mineshafts where 13 people got trapped.

According to local authorities, 11 people were in the first mineshaft while the second had 2. Each one had approximately 10 meters depth.

The youngest was 18 while the oldest was 43. of them 6 were in their twenties, 4 were aged 18, 2 in their thirties, and one aged 43.

On Saturday, authorities, the police, and agents sent by the ministry of mines effortlessly tried but in vain.

Nicodème Ndahabonyimana, communal administrator, reported that till late Saturday, bodies remained unfound.

Families expressed their anger alleging the authorities of carelessness. They urged the government to properly organize extracting activities by assessing and anticipating disasters.

They further asked concerned people such as the government and worksite owners to insure their employees.

Same accidents and scenarios are common in the province as illegal miners opt for working at night to escape control and avoid taxes. They take the risks even without emergency kits.

“The province of Cibitoke has a death toll each year in artisanal mines”, reported witnesses.

It is Sunday that 13 bodies were finally declared by the protection police after hours of emergency search and rescue.

“It took us two days up to Sunday afternoon,” said one of the rescue teams.

Of the fatalities, ten are from the Butahana zone, two from the Murwi commune and one from the Kabarore commune, Kayanza province.

They all belonged to Nyagasamba cooperative.

According to Red Cross Burundi, the victims (10) residing in Butahana area were buried directly while the remaining were sent to their respective families.

Environmentalists connect the tragedy to the effect of climate change. They emphasize on extreme weathers that have been occurred for the past years

“It is either heavy rains or drought, or land sliding,” said Jean Marie Sabushimike, Environmentalist and Lecturer at the National University in the Department of Geography.

“Human pressure is a threat, everywhere the soil is not protected, so are rivers”.

He added that afforestation initiatives could be an emergency first on mountains towering the Imbo plain.

He recalled even recent land sliding in Rugombo and Buganda. “You can hardly find a tree in the Rusizi plain due to intensive agriculture and unsustainable methods,” he said.

In the Burundi Environment Protection Authority (OBPE), they reported that capacity building activities are being prepared to educate residents to plant trees wherever they cut them.

“On river banks especially Rusizi and other small rivers , we plan to plant bamboo and friendly trees to anticipate river overrun,” said OBPE Cibitoke.

Comforting families, the Ministry of Minister of Hydraulics, Energy and Mines, Ibrahim Uwizeyen urged gold miners to register in insurance companies.

“It can help when such accidents happen as the compensation is entitled to everyone”.

“Also, always take into account rainfall forecasts,” he concluded.




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