EIGHT people, including six Chinese nationals, died when some gas cylinders exploded at the SAS gold mine in Lowdale, Mazowe district on Thursday, police have said.
Mazowe MP Fortune Chasi (Zanu-PF) visited the accident site in the company of deputy Mines Minister Polite Kambamura.
“When I got there, the police were collecting the bodies. Ministry of mines officials and other government officials were there trying to establish what exactly happened,” Chasi said.
The explosion happened at the mine about 50 km north of the capital, Harare, police said.
Officers were “investigating the circumstances in which six foreign nationals as well as a Zimbabwean died when some gas cylinders exploded at SAS mine,” police spokesperson Paul Nyathi.
Another person was critically injured and taken to a local hospital, Nyathi added.
Deputy Minister Kambamura said they ordered the temporary closure of the mine following the first incident on Wednesday to allow investigations, but the mine management defied Government orders, leading to seven more deaths the following day.
“Unfortunately, the mine management defied that order and continued to work leading to the loss of more lives on Thursday,” he said.
Chasi said according to reports, a 21-year-old man died on Wednesday at the mine after an oxygen tank he was trying to open exploded.
“Unfortunately, yesterday another gas tank exploded killing six Chinese workers and one Zimbabwean worker. In total eight people died at the mine. The situation at the mine is tense and workers are traumatised by the event,” he said.
It was all gloomy yesterday as workers were trying to come to terms with the tragic event, with body parts of the deceased being taken to a local mortuary.
The gate to the mine was locked with a number of security guards manning the area.
One of the workers who witnessed both incidents and asked for anonymity for fear of victimisation, told The Herald that the first victim who died was a youth who had just started work a few months ago.
“He had just married and his wife is pregnant. He went near the blast furnace around 6pm and in line with his everyday duties, he tried to open a gas bottle and it then exploded.
“We heard a loud sound and we are still in shock. We just saw some body parts strewn all over the place. It was quite scary for those of a nervous disposition as all his body parts were contained in a plastic bag,” said the worker.
Another worker said the death of the seven occurred the following day in almost a similar manner.
“Unfortunately on this fateful day, most workers including myself were defying orders to work. We were still traumatised by the death of our colleague the previous day.
“However, as fate would have it, some insisted that they wanted to go inside and work. Around 7pm while workers were changing shifts, we heard an unusual loud bang. Little did we know that more colleagues had perished,” said the worker.