West News Wire: On Wednesday, an overloaded truck carrying 29 people crashed into a mountainside and overturned near an illicit gold mine in Indonesia’s West Papua province, killing 18 people and injuring others, according to authorities.
The vehicle, packed to the brim with miners and their families, was on its way to Manokwari, the capital of West Papua province, to celebrate Easter. According to local police chief Parisian Herman Gultom, they were on their way from a mining region in Minyambou village, Arfak Mountain district, when the vehicle hit the mountain and tipped over before morning.
The truck’s engine allegedly lost power while travelling up a hill, according to survivors. It rolled backwards before collapsing, instantly killing 13 people, including the driver and a toddler. The remaining 16 were transferred to two hospitals, with some of them in critical condition, and five died while in treatment.
Television reports showed rescuers from the local search and rescue agency using their bare hands to search for the victims and struggling to bring out black body bags in half-vertical terrain.
Informal mining operations are commonplace in Indonesia, providing a tenuous livelihood to thousands who labor in conditions with a high risk of serious injury or death.
Landslides, flooding and collapses of tunnels are just some of the hazards facing miners. Much of gold ore processing involves highly toxic mercury and cyanide and workers frequently use little or no protection.
The country’s last major mining-related accident occurred in February 2019 when a makeshift wooden structure in an illegal gold mine in North Sulawesi province collapsed due to shifting soil and the large number of mining holes. More than 40 people died, buried in the mine pit.