At least 23 illegal gold miners were feared dead in Zimbabwe on Thursday after water flooded two disused shafts in a mining town 145km (90 miles) south-west of the capital Harare.
Rescuers were trying to use pumps to extract water in the search for survivors and bodies at the site near the town of Kadoma.
“We heard from their colleagues that at least 23 people are trapped in the mine shaft which was flooded by water from a dam wall which burst due to heavy rains on Tuesday night,“ Wilson Gwatiringa, spokesman for mining company RioZim, owners of one of the mines, told AFP.
“One of them is our mine which was no longer in operation. We are assisting on humanitarian grounds.”
The state-owned Herald newspaper said the other mine was privately owned.
District administrator Fortunate Muzulu told the paper at least 23 people were trapped underground and that the “chances of rescuing any survivors are very slim”.
“The illegal miners entered the shafts at night to evade the owners,“ Muzulu said.
Police would not confirm the incident, saying they were yet to receive a full report.
Zimbabwe has valuable platinum, diamond, gold, coal and copper deposits.