KINSHASA, 16 Mar 2005 (IRIN) - Twenty small-scale miners have died and scores are missing following the collapse of a mine at Kapangla, a village in the Democratic Republic of Congo's south-central province of Kasai Occidental, the province's deputy governor, Clement Kanku, told IRIN on Wednesday.
"We suppose the number of victims could now be forty," Kanku, who inspected the accident site on Monday, said.
Reports of the accident, which took place on 21 February, have only just reached authorities because there is no telephone link to Kapangla, which is entirely inhabited by 6,000 miners.
Before this accident, Kanku said, the most fatal mine collapse "in the area" occurred in October 2004, in which 10 people died. He said the provincial authorities had now banned mining at night and soldiers from entering the area.
"In many cases, it is soldiers who dig for diamonds or who force others to do so on their behalf," he said.