Eight miners have been missing underground for a month in a zinc mine in Burkina Faso. As relief operations continue, the Bishop of Koudougou calls for prayer and solidarity.
Six Burkinabè, a Zambian and a Tanzanian were trapped on April 16 at the bottom of the Perkoa mine, operated by the Canadian company Trevali Mining, about 700 km west of Ouagadougou, after torrential rains which flooded the underground galleries where they worked XNUMX meters underground.
Since then, no contact has been established with them, but rescuers still hoped that they had been able to take shelter in a "chamber of refuge" located 580 meters deep, where survival kits including water , food and medicine, are usually stored.
Rescuers were able to reach the room on Tuesday, but found it "empty of any human being", said the Minister of Mines, Jean Alphonse Somé, present at the scene. “It is cruel information that we carry within us and that we have brought to the parents of the victims,” he added.
But "the research is not over," said the minister. With those responsible for the mine, "the government has pledged to continue the pumping operations to look lower, deeper underground, (to see) if our brothers have not been able to find a refuge other than that where we hoped that they happened to be,” he said.
“There is yet another chamber of refuge lower down”, the objective being not only to reach it, but to pump all the water which is in the underground galleries, specified Mr. Somé.
Rescuers have been working tirelessly for a month to pump out the 165 million liters of water that flooded the galleries.
Prayer, “an effective weapon”
Faced with this tragedy, the Bishop of Koudougou, Mgr Joachim Ouedraogo, invites prayer.
Vatican News reports that on April 20, the bishop wrote a pastoral letter to call "the diocesan community to spiritual and human solidarity" with the minors and their families. In this missive, he asked in particular to support the relief efforts through prayer. A month later, the religious renews this call, convinced of the power of prayer.
"Prayer is an effective weapon in the hands of the believer in all circumstances, and solidarity, a way of being a good Samaritan for the afflicted," he said.
Bishop Joachim Ouedraogo believes that at the local level his call has been heard, he evokes a massive outpouring of solidarity.
“Parents, followers of different religions and the authorities of the Region have mobilized in prayer, moral support for the families of minors and the search for solutions to the situation which is becoming more and more untenable. »
However, he regrets that on the international level, this solidarity is little expressed. He therefore calls "for a strengthening of international solidarity, in particular at the African level" to help the country already facing many challenges.
“To all those who listen to me, men and women of good will, I invite them to prayer and to human solidarity through various supports: closeness, compassion and help of all kinds. »
On May 1, the government announced the opening of an investigation to "identify all responsibilities", and took "precautionary measures" to prevent those responsible for the mine from leaving Burkinabè territory.
For their part, the families of six minors filed a "complaint against x" for "attempted manslaughter", "endangering the lives of others" and "non-assistance to a person in danger".
Camille Westphal Perrier (with AFP)