Mass grief has gripped Dompoase, near Wassa Akropong in the Western Region, as a rescue team, comprising the police and some galamsey operators, continues to dig deep into the mud for more bodies following one of the biggest mining tragedies to hit Ghana.
The wailing in the town has generally become a women’s affair because out of the 18 bodies so far retrieved, 14 have been identified as women who were part of a team of about 30 in the pit last Tuesday afternoon, when a landslide struck and buried them alive.
With no idea of the actual numbers involved, there are fears of more bodies being buried under the massive chunk of clay in that soggy part of the Amenfi East District of the Western Region.
According to one of the few survivors, Gloria Ndzabah, 27, before the accident, some of them had already come out from the pit before it caved in, trapping the others, together with the pit owner whose name she gave as Ato.
She said Ato had contracted six men and 24 women who entered the pit for the day’s galamsey business.
Ms Ndzabah said Ato had been behind her but he had not been able to get out before the disaster, adding that she was the last person to step out of the pit.
At the hospital where she looked traumatised, she explained that the men did the excavation while the women served as porters who carried the rocks out for processing.
“All of us would have escaped but for a giant tree that fell from the mountain during the landslide,” she said, almost in tears.
The search for more bodies and possible survivors has become even more arduous as those engaged in the operation have to do so with simple implements such as shovels, pans, bamboo sticks and even their bare hands, in some cases.
Interestingly, the identities of the bodies retrieved so far are yet to be established since, according to residents, most of the people engaged in illegal mining in the town are not indigenes.
However, the names of some of those trapped were given as Ato, Emusey and Eric, whose ages range between 18 and 27.
According to the Tarkwa Divisional Police Commander, Mr Kojo Antwi Tabi, the police were doing everything possible to ensure that those who might have been trapped were rescued.
He said the search was becoming extremely difficult, since the galamsey operators had dug many pits all over the area which posed a big threat to his men, as well as those helping in the operation.