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Underground coal fire victim succumbs to injuries

Eight-year-old Alisha Sekina Mazwiti who was severely burnt by an underground coal seam fire in Hwange three weeks ago has died.

Alisha succumbed to injuries sustained when the ground collapsed underneath her feet resulting in her suffering serious burns on both legs, hands, back and stomach on 7 November.

She was rushed to Hwange Colliery Hospital before being transferred to Mpilo in Bulawayo.

Alisha’s mother, Ethel Yenzani Ncube confirmed the development to CITE.

“Alisha passed away last night before 10 pm at Mpilo hospital where she was receiving treatment for her burns. We are currently gathered at Entumbane in Bulawayo as arrangements are being done,” said a tearful Ncube.

Meanwhile, Greater Whange Residents Trust has called on mining companies to put measures to prevent loss of life.

“The community of Hwange is deeply sad that Alisha, a young and innocent soul died in a horrible manner due to underground fires. It is a sad day for the Hwange people. We still continue to demand that Hwange Colliery Company should ensure that it puts necessary preventive measures to ensure that people do not unnecessarily lose their lives to underground fires. Hwange Colliery Company should invest in environmental rehabilitation.

He said residents were opposed to the growing demand for coal use arguing that it had serious health and environmental implications.

“As Greater Whange Residents Trust we are opposed to the increased appetite of dirty energy as it has serious health risks and believe that the nation should embrace renewable energy which has very limited health risks.”

According to a recent report by Centre for Natural Resources and Governance (CNRG) it noted that underground coal fires were prevalent in Hwange which was evidenced by the increased number of incidents.

“Underground coal seam fires are now prevalent in Hwange, throughout the concession owned by Hwange Colliery Company Limited (HCCL) where there are also human settlements for the mine labour. Residents have noted that mine residue dumps found in Number 2 and 3 areas of HCCL are some of the most hazardous sites with raging underground coal seam fires. It was noted that loose dry materials that land on hot coal dumps quickly ignite fires that spread to coal seams. Fires travel underground from one coal seam to another and subsist in the ground for many years. Removal of overburden during mining brings the fires close to the ground. In some cases, the overburden gives in to the heat, causing the ground to collapse,” read the report in part.

It called on massive campaigns to create awareness on the existence of these fires.

“The solution to some of the hazards is not only with mining companies and regulatory authorities but also families and schools where children should be taught not to play in hazardous places. There is need to have clear child safeguarding policies by all mining companies in Hwange and even beyond. Coal mining companies must carry out awareness raising campaigns in schools and communities on the dangers of coal seam fires.”

Several children and adults have over the years fallen victim to underground coal fires with some becoming permanently disabled.

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