Rescuers pull out first survivor of Zambia landslide that trapped 38 miners

LUSAKA (Reuters) -Rescue workers in Zambia have pulled out the first survivor of a Dec. 1 landslide that inundated an open-pit copper mine and trapped at least 38 people who were working there without a permit, the disaster management unit said on Wednesday.

The rescue team also retrieved two bodies, which were yet to be identified, the Disaster Management and Mitigation Unit said in a statement posted on Facebook.

“A 49-year-old man has been rescued from the collapsed mine slug dump site in Chingola after being trapped with several other miners,” it said, adding that he was being treated in hospital.

Zambia’s president Hakainde Hichilema said on Tuesday he was still hopeful that the trapped miners were alive, as rescue efforts continued.

The miners at Seseli Mine in Chingola, about 400 km (250 miles) northwest of Lusaka, were trapped in three locations and heavy rains had flooded the pit, the government said.

The mine was previously owned by Vedanta’s Konkola Copper Mines (KCM) but is now in the hands of a local company that is yet to start mining operations as it awaits safety and environmental approvals.

It was still not clear how many miners had been trapped but Mines Minister Paul Kabuswe said on Monday 25 families had so far come forward to report missing relatives who were working when the accident happened.

Copperbelt Minister Elisha Matambo said on Wednesday more family members had come forward with claims of missing relatives, raising the number of those trapped to at least 38.

“We still have hope that we will find others who will be alive,” Matambo said during a media briefing.

Rescue workers, including military personnel and others from large-scale mining companies, were being cautious due to soft ground, slowing down the operation.

(Reporting by Chris Mfula; Editing by Bhargav Acharya and Mark Potter)