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NDASSIMA, CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC — At least 37 people have been killed after a gold mine collapsed in the Central African Republic (CAR), making it the country's worst ever mine disaster, a government spokesman said Tuesday. It is feared the death toll could rise.
The accident happened on Sunday at the Ndassima gold mining site near Bambari, a town in the country's central region that serves as the capital of Ouaka prefecture. The collapse followed a period of torrential rains in the area, resulting in a landslide that caused the gold mine to collapse.
Prosper N'douba, a spokesman for the presidency, confirmed Tuesday that rescue workers had recovered a total of 37 bodies, making it the country's worst ever mine disaster. He said the death toll could still rise, but it was not immediately clear how many people were still believed to be unaccounted for.
Michel Djotodia, the rebel leader who seized power in March after Seleka rebels took control of the capital Bangui, extended his sincere condolences to the families of the victims. He also declared three days of national mourning, starting on Tuesday, and ordered flags across the African country to fly at half-staff.
The Central African Republic has been through a series of coups and revolts since its independence from France in 1960. Located next to Cameroon, the African country is one of the poorest in the world, despite considerable agricultural, water and mineral resources. But corruption is rife and undermines the timber and diamond industries.