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Redwing Mine disaster, survivors relive the horror

Redwing Mine disaster, survivors relive the horror

Story by Kenias Chivuzhe, Manicaland Bureau Chief

THE rescue mission at Redwing Mine in Penhalonga turned out to be an extraordinary story of determination in the valley of the shadow of death.

According to Indian lawyer Mahatma Gandhi, “A true hero is not defined by their strength, but by their ability to inspire and lead others”.

That is the story of Goodson Madimutsa and three others who helped fellow trapped miners to keep their faith and survive under very difficult conditions.

Madimutsa, who was the first man out after being trapped for four days, recounted the horror, despair, and uncertainty they faced underground.

“We went underground last Wednesday. On Thursday around 6am we started to hear huge noises like thunderstorms as the rocks started to crack from the shaft entrance with the falling rocks generating fire underground. While the rocks were falling, there was a very strong and strange wind that I had never experienced in my life.

“The wind was accompanied by water that was above our waist. It took about five minutes before the water subsided. We later regrouped, but our entrance was closed. We survived the rocks onslaught due to God’s power,” he narrated.

The tale of the rescued miners is an unprecedented story of the struggle for survival under extremely dangerous conditions.

“After the tremor, we spent the whole day at one place and started the manoeuvres during the evening. After moving out of the blue stone zone, we had about 60 metres to dig the ground to reach the earth’s surface. We took turns to dig the tunnel out and we had no water or food. We had an unfortunate incident where soil fell on one of our team members and buried him before we quickly dug him out to rescue him as any delays would have resulted in him dying,” narrated Madimutsa.

“We had no way to move out and there was a very strong wind. The wind pushed us to the walls and took away our torches before opening a small tunnel for us to move out of where we sought refuge. We discovered that unity is the greatest strength in life,” said Simbarashe Gwade, another survivor.

“We calculated time-based on the temperatures we were experiencing. The changes in temperatures informed us if it was in the morning, afternoon or evening as we had nowhere to check our time. We don’t understand what caused the earth movement as it looked like a tremor,” another survivor, Owen Jaison said.

The darkest hour came before dawn as the miners were rescued just when most of them were losing hope.

“We had no food and water and that was affecting us more. Some of us had lost all the power to get out of the shaft and that’s when we got help.”

Some of the team members had no power to get out alone.

While the ending provides a somewhat feel-good story, it was, however, nothing short of a miracle for the survivors to dig 60 metres up the shaft in less than four days.

“What gave me power and courage is that I have four children and their mother passed away and I wanted to remain alive for them. It was unbelievable and we believe that it is God who gave us power to persevere. We took a very short time to open a 60-metre-long shaft. We could not have achieved that even if we were on the surface digging 60 metres within two days,” said Madimutsa.

The mine shaft collapsed on Thursday last week with the successful rescue mission of the 15 trapped miners being carried out Sunday.

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