After recent developments concerning illegal mining leading to a tragic incident in which some 40 citizens are feared dead in a mudslide in Gbanipea, Tappita District, Nimba County, about 65 alleged illegal miners have being arrested by the National Disaster Management Agency (NDMA) and turned over to Liberia National Police (LNP) to be processed.
The latest updates on rescue efforts coordinated by the NDMA in Nimba County revealed that government security forces, comprising the LNP, Liberia Immigration Service, Liberia Drug Enforcement Agency and the Armed Forces of Liberia have set up blockades at illegal gold mines operated by illegal miners where several persons are still unaccounted for.
According to the update, signed by NDMA Director Communication, Archievego M. Doe, residents of the mines have been evacuated to safe havens where they are being catered to until operation “Rescue Alive or Recovered Dead” is declared ended.
The Liberia National Red Cross Societyhas begun contact tracing so as to establish the exact information of people missing in the loose soil collapse, adding that “the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the National Traditional Council of Liberia have been engaging the chiefs and elders to ensure the operations are smoothly carried out without breaking cultural norms.”
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Health, National Public Health Institute of Liberia, WASH Commission, and Environmental Protection Agency have also begun testing water sources for possible water pollution, assessing livelihoods to ensure the safety of the community and conducting surveillance of a possible outbreak of either air or water borne diseases.
However, the report indicated, the complication of the mines is impeding speedy rescue efforts which has brought the Technical Steering Committee set up by President George Weah to provide supervision of the operations to its “Second Course of Actions” in the “Emergency Response Plan”, which is “moving in earth-moving equipment that will open a road from the main highway to the mining site which is in an inaccessible area.
As the government of Liberia intensifies efforts to ensure calm in the disaster-hit mining site, their purpose is to allow an excavator machine to move into the area so as to speed up the rescue work.
The NDMA also appreciates all of its partners who are involved with this effort, noting that their work is enormous and shall be remembered by both the living and the dead.
Scanty information surrounding the discovery of a gold deposit in the town came in nearly a month ago, but did not attract more attention until the incident which left over 40 persons mining gold in the town being trapped under debris of fallen earth walls.
Meanwhile, since the incident occurred on February 9, only five bodies of the estimated 40 persons feared dead have been removed from the pit through the help of some earth-moving equipment, while more efforts to find the remaining ones are yet to yield positive results.
The NDMA applauded President Weah for his role played as the “Father” of the land by putting in the available resources to address the crisis and also declaring Monday, February 18, as a “National Day of Mourning” in memory of those who lost their lives in the loose soil collapse.