At least two Zimbabwe miners were killed and 20 others trapped underground after a shaft collapsed in a gold mine in the centre of the country, state media and police reported on Thursday.
The incident occurred overnight at the Globe and Phoenix mine in the town of Kwekwe, around 200 kilometres (120 miles) west of Harare.
Authorities were first alerted early Thursday after the miners, who were working illegally, failed to surface at the end of their shift.
“We received the news about the unfortunate incident a few hours ago and we are running around coordinating a rescue mission,” the chair of provincial civil protection unit, Fortune Mpungu, told The Herald newspaper.
Both the police and the mines ministry later confirmed the incident.
Two miners died while one was injured and taken to hospital, police spokesman Paul Nyathi told AFP.
It was not immediately clear whether the others had been recovered.
“So far we don’t know what really happened or how many people were affected,” said the mine ministry’s permanent secretary Onesimo Moyo, adding that an inspection team had been dispatched to the area.
Mining is a major source of foreign currency for Zimbabwe.
The southern African country is home to vast gold and mineral reserves, including diamonds and platinum.
But a large share of mining is carried out in a small-scale, unregulated manner — diverting revenue from state coffers and increasing the likelihood of accidents.
Two dozen gold miners drowned in February last year after the mine shaft in which they operating flooded. The incident was caused by informal tunnelling that caused a dam wall to break.