An unspecified number of people from a group of about 124 are believed to be trapped underground at Dunkwa-on-Offin in the Central Region following a galamsey expedition that turned tragic in a heavy downpour on Sunday.
The Dunkwa Municipal Police Commander, Supt Samuel Anderson Buabeng, put the number of persons trapped underground at 110, contrary to what the owner of the pit claimed as “11 of the miners are missing”.
Alhaji Abubakar Siddique, who owns the pit at Kubi Ankaase, admitted that on that fateful Sunday, 18 ‘gangs’ and their leaders, with each gang comprising seven miners, were in the pit using 18 different points when it caved in.
He said the pit had been covered by water following a heavy downpour when the disaster occurred, trapping the miners inside.
Although he could not give the specific number of people trapped and where they were, Alhaji Siddique insisted that a greater number of the miners escaped unhurt, believing that only 11 of them were still missing.
He promised to make the surviving gang leaders available to the Dunkwa Municipal Police to brief them on the exact number of deaths.
His presentation was, however, contradicted by Supt Buabeng, who said the team which the police dispatched to the area when the message reached the station had a different story.
According to him, the team could hardly engage in any rescue operation because of the nature of the flooding from the rain and water from the Dunkwa River.
From the team’s investigations, he said, the number of those trapped underground could be as high as 110 and that the search team had given up hope of finding any survivors but was working hard to stop the flow of water into the pit to facilitate the retrieval of bodies from underground.
At the disaster scene, two excavators were ramming through the mud in an attempt to cut through the huge pit.
Some residents who claimed that their relatives had been engaged in the galamsey operations told the Daily Graphic that about 15 of the miners had escaped unhurt but were not available for comment.
Hundreds of residents had massed up at the scene, anxiously expecting a breakthrough or more information on the rescue efforts.
They claimed that the area was an abandoned pit which had been taken over by galamsey operators.
Using 18 different points, the illegal miners were said to have entered the pit to begin their operations and while they were digging in the pit, which had been filled with water following the rains, it caved in, trapping some the miners inside, while others managed to escape before the accident.