The families of two of eight miners trapped by flooding at a zinc mine in Burkina Faso last month hope the workers will be alive.
“It’s been three weeks of sleepless nights for all of us,” the cousin of one of the trapped men told the BBC.
There was no contact with them, and another man’s wife said she was not satisfied with the rescue effort.
It is unclear whether those working more than 520 meters (1,706 feet) underground reached the two available shelters.
The Canadian owner of the mine — about 100 kilometers (60 miles) west of the capital Ouagadougou — said searchers continued to work 24 hours a day.
Specialized equipment has been imported from Ghana and South Africa to expedite rescue work for mines at a depth of 710m.
Trevali Mining said 32 million litres of water had been pumped from the mine so far, allowing rescuers to reach 550m below ground.
This is 30m of water falling after a strong thunderstorm cut power and communications on April 16.
In less than an hour, 125mm of rain fell, five times the monthly average.
A refuge room, or “survival room” as he called it, was at a depth of 580m, according to a rescue worker who spoke to AFP.
It is unclear when rescuers will arrive in the area.
“We are hopeful, but also angry,” said Yakuba Bama, his cousin Charles Bama, one of the six missing Burkina Faso people, along with a worker from Tanzania and A worker from Zambia.
The case sparked outrage in Burkina Faindex, as rescue operations began after protests and sit-ins at a government building in a nearby town five days after the floods.
“We don’t know if there’s enough oxygen for them to eat and no one to feed them,” the cousin said of the family’s concerns.
Brenda Mwamba, wife of trapped Zambian miner Nune Ndonji, told BBC Focus on Africa radio that the communication about the rescue effort was appalling – the mine manager in Burkina Faso spent five days contacting her directly in Zambia. exist.
“We asked them about the size and layout of the mine and they were unable to provide us with information,” she said.
But she said she couldn’t give up hope for her husband, who has been reluctant to let her family worry about the dangers of his job.
“I just put everything in the hands of God. My hope is still there.
“He’s everything for the family, the kids – me too.”
The government has launched a judicial investigation into the incident and the mine manager is not allowed to leave the country.
Trevali CEO Ricus Grimbeek said the company was working closely with all levels of government and thanked them for their support.
“We welcome the government’s decision to move its crisis management committee closer to the mines to better include families of missing workers and to foster closer cooperation as we work expeditiously to find missing persons,” he said in a statement.
During the rescue work, a road ramp to the mine had been rebuilt, and 5,000 meters of new pipes and more than 24 electric and diesel pumps were installed, Trevali said.