BUNIA, DRC - Twenty-four people were killed when a landslide engulfed a gold mine in DR Congo's eastern Ituri province after days of torrential rain battered the region, an official said Sunday.
"Our teams on the ground ... have pulled out 24 bodies and saved two people," provincial minister of mining Dieudonne Apasa told AFP. As rescuer workers were still searching, the toll could rise, he said.
"The incident happened yesterday between 5:30 pm (1530 GMT) and 6:00 pm. They were taken by surprise by a landslide, which engulfed them," Apasa added.
"The almost daily rains that have been falling recently on the region are the main cause of this landslide."
The gold panners were working at Ndiyo mine around 40 kilometers (25 miles) from Watsa, the main town in the Watsa territory of Upper-Uele province.
Further to the south, civil authorities said landslides caused by the incessant rain had killed 31 people between December 7 and 14 at Bukavu in eastern South Kivu province.
A similar disaster in a makeshift mine at Maniema further to the west killed 31 people in October, and landslides caused by heavy rains were blamed for at least 41 deaths in the capital Kinshasa on November 26.
Accidents in DR Congo's makeshift mines are a common occurrence, and are often deadly. Because many such mines are in remote areas however, the accidents are under-reported.
The miners sell what they find to local traders, who sell it on to large foreign companies.