KINSHASA, 5 Aug 2005 (IRIN) - A local official of the UN humanitarian office, OCHA, said on Friday that 12 diamond miners working in a pit 84 km northwest of the town of Punia in the Democratic Republic of Congo's Maniema Province are dead and many others are seriously ill from what appears to be a hemorrhagic fever.
"Those infected vomit blood," said Gerson Brandao, the humanitarian affairs officer for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in Maniema, in the east of the country.
"This is likely an acute respiratory infection that has mutated into a hemorrhagic fever," he added.
Brandao said 34 people were currently suspected of having the disease.
He said the disease could have been caused by the condition in Punia and at the pit where 10,500 miners recently arrived following news of the discovery of diamonds. He said the health inspector for the Punia Health Zone had reported there was no drinking water in the area and that the miners worked in poor health conditions.
Brandao said UNICEF had sent a mobile health clinic to the area while the NGO Merlin and other humanitarian organisations were informing people on methods to prevent further transmission of the disease.