The Civil Protection Unit in Mashonaland West has stepped up efforts to drain water from two flooded mines where at least 23 people reportedly died on Tuesday evening.

The miners died when interlinked shafts and tunnels at the two mines in Battlefields – Cricket Mine and one owned by a Mr Baxter – were flooded after dam wall collapse due to heavy rains received in the area.

The incident happened around 11pm.

CPU chairperson for Mashonaland West and Provincial Administrator Mrs Cecilia Chitiyo said they have since mobilised mining experts to work on the modalities of pumping out water from the shafts.

“We are appealing to miners with 30 horsepower pumps which can clear 60-100m head to come and assist rescue at Cricket Mine. Some shafts are about 42 m deep but two of these are about 60 to 100m deep,” she said.

Provincial Affairs Minister Mary Mliswa-Chikoka, Mines and Mining Development Minister Winston Chitando and MP for Muzvezve Cde Vangelis Peter Haritatos are some senior Government officials expected at the mine.

Mrs Chitiyo said they had engaged Zimplats to assist with their rescue efforts.

According to figures confirmed at an emergency CPU meeting held in Kadoma last night four people are known to have gone down at the Baxter Shaft on the night of the incident.

The meeting also heard that 19 people were on record as having gone down four shafts which are 42m deep.

“This gives a total of 23 people on record to have been underground at the time the accident happened. However, the number may go up providing for those who went down without registering on both sites,” Mrs Chitiyo said.

Mhondoro-Ngezi district administrator Mrs Fortunate Muzulu had on Wednesday said illegal miners entered the shafts and tunnels under the cover of darkness without the knowledge of mine owners and disappeared early in the morning.

Rescue operations were also difficult since the shafts were flooded to the surface while an electricity blackout had also disturbed pumping out of water from the mines.

It has also emerged that RioZim had ceded claims to the Cricket Mine to a group of youths who were mining gold as a co-operative although the mining company yesterday chipped in with pumps to drain the water.herald