Operations to try to find eight miners who have been missing underground in a zinc mine in Burkina Faso for the past month were continuing on Tuesday, without much hope that they could be brought up alive, an AFP journalist noted.
The eight miners - six Burkinabe, one Zambian and one Tanzanian - were trapped on April 16 at the bottom of the Perkoa mine, operated by the Canadian company Trevali Mining, located about 100 km west of Ouagadougou, after heavy rains flooded the underground galleries where they were working 700 meters below ground.
Since then, no contact has been made with them, but rescuers are still hoping that they may have taken shelter in a "refuge chamber" 580 meters below ground, where survival kits including water, food and medicine are usually stored.
Rescuers are working tirelessly to pump out the 165 million liters of water that have flooded the galleries and reached the roof of the chamber, according to the crisis committee set up in Perkoa.
"The chamber is still submerged" by water, said Monday evening Lieutenant Stephane Sidi Nana, one of the firefighters present at the scene. "We could not observe through the glass to see the inside of the room," he said.
Jean Alphonse Somé, Minister of Mines, believes that rescue workers are in the "final stages of pumping and in the next few hours, at any time" it will be possible to "look" inside the refuge chamber, to see if the miners are indeed inside.
Antoine Bama, a relative of one of the missing miners, told AFP that he "remains hopeful" that "our brothers, husbands and fathers will be found alive". He and other relatives of the miners meet every day at the site "to support and console each other and to follow closely the progress of the operations".
"It is an anguish that we have been living for a month now" and "we don't know when it will end", he notes, stressing that "the opening of the refuge room is the last hope for us to have good news".
"If the room is empty, we don't know what we're going to (be able to) hang on to," he says.
On May 1, the government announced the opening of an investigation to "determine all responsibilities" and took "precautionary measures" to prevent the mine's managers from leaving Burkina Faso.
For their part, the families of six miners filed a "complaint against x" for "attempted manslaughter", "endangering the lives of others" and "failure to assist a person in danger".