After the failure of the state-run mining company to extinguish underground fires, residents in Zimbabwe’s Hwange region are now living in fear.

Neglected underground coal fires pose a threat to the lives of Zimbabweans
 

Hwange (Zimbabwe) – Simba Mulezu, ten, was driving his cattle home from his mother’s corn fields when the ground gave under his feet. He fell into underground coal mines.

He was left with permanently damaged limbs as a result of the incident.

Mulezu, 22, said that she spent several months in hospital. Hwange Colliery Company didn’t help me with hospital bills or other necessities. “[Only] my relatives and parents have stood by me.”

Over the past five year, coal fires have been a significant problem in Hwange. They are common in different parts of the mining town. Underground, one blaze has burned for fifteen years.

An eight-year-old girl was relieved in a bush area when she was caught by the ground and fell into an open coal seam fire. Later, she died at a hospital from her injuries.

Hwange Colliery Company Limited is based at Hwange, in southwestern Zimbabwe. The town has a population of around 40,000 and is living in fear because the company failed to secure coal sites or take steps to extinguish the flames.

Fidelis Chima, Coordinator of Greater Whange Residents Trust, stated that underground and surface fires had killed two children and injured over a dozen others in recent years. He said that the company did not take the threat seriously.

“Hwange Colliery Company seems unable to take action on underground fires. “It’s unfortunate that Hwange Colliery makes evictions difficult for those who live in the concession area,” Chima stated.

Global Forest Watch, an open source monitor, reports that hundreds of fires are burning low and slow on dirt fuel under the earth. Some continue to burn for decades.

These fires are also known as coal seam fires. These fires occur underground when coal is ignited in the Earth’s crust. Global Forest Watch stated that the fires are difficult to see and harder to extinguish because of their out-of-sight nature.

Hwange residents complain about Hwange Colliery Company’s neglect of their safety over the years. They now live in fear for their children, who can’t read warning signs.

Children have suffered life-threatening injuries and deformities as a result of inadequate security measures at coal dump sites.

“The company hired Madumabisa’s tribal elders to help with awareness campaigns about coal fires. Cosmas Nyoni (a local councillor) said that it has been more than 15 years since underground fires began threatening communities.

Lovemore Ncube from Hwange, another official, stated that although signage has been placed around underground fires to warn the public, children are still being killed or maimed.

“Late last year, we had an eighteen-year-old girl who was burned and died from the effects of the burns. According to me, HCCL has hired a German company to try and quench the flames. Ncube stated that the company has placed signs around the area to block access.

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