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Six months since collapse of Siaya mine, one miner still trapped

Family of Tom Okwach take matters into their own hands

Rescue operations at Abimbo gold mine accident in Bondo, Siaya county Image: DICKENS WASONGA/The Star

On December 2, 2021 tragedy struck residents of Abimbo, Siaya County when a mine collapsed, trapping eight individuals. Out of the eight, six were rescued, one body was retrieved while one miner, Tom Okwach is yet to be found.

For seven months, the family of Okwach has lived in agony not knowing whether their kin is alive or not. In an interview with Nation Newspaper, Steve Aliwa, brother of Okwach explained in intricate detail the problems the family are currently facing.

“It is a nightmare that I wish to wake up from. People have given up on this course; family members and friends are saying we should now let it go, but how will I leave my brother in the mines when I know he is there? What will I tell his children?” asked Aliwa.

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Aliwa reiterated that all the financial help they used to get ceased, immediately after the rescue operation stopped. At the mine, activities have also resumed. Okwach's family has now been forced to sell some of their assets in order to repay incurring debts.

“The untimely departure of my brother has left a big gap in our family; we have sold all that we could sell including a family’s piece of land in order to finance the search of the body from the mines, and we have incurred huge debts that we don’t know how we shall repay,” Aliwa stated.

Immediately the rescue operations facilitated by the Government stopped, Aliwa took matters into his own hands, recruiting the assistance of 15 artisanal miners who volunteered to help locate his brother, however they still face challenges.

“For us to succeed we need to work for two weeks without stopping and our daily fuel consumption is 20 liters of petrol and 20 liters of diesel,” said Aliwa who believes 10 days of continuous search is enough to help locate his brother.

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