Victims of Liberia gold mine collapse receive prayers from pope

Workers at a gold mine in Liberia in September 2011 Credit DW Akademie   Africa via Flickr CC BY NC 20 Workers at a gold mine in Liberia, September 2011. | DW Akademie - Africa via Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0).

Pope Francis offered his condolences Thursday to those affected by a mudslide at a gold mine in Liberia earlier this month which has killed at least seven and trapped another 40.

"His Holiness Pope Francis was deeply saddened to learn of the injury and loss of life caused by a mudslide in Gbanipea, and he expresses his heartfelt solidarity with you and all those affected by this tragedy," Cardinal Pietro Parolin Vatican Secretary of State, wrote in a Feb. 21 telegram to Bishop Anthony Borwah of Gbarnga.

A pit in an illegal gold mine near Tapeta, about 100 miles southeast of Gbarnga, caved in Feb. 10.

Other miners attempted to recover the trapped workers by using their bare hands to remove debris in an effort to rescue people without further harm. The workers did not have access to heavy machinery, but an excavator is reportedly being sent to the site.

The government delegated the police, army, and immigration agency officials to monitor the situation. Thousands of people, some of whom are migrants, are believed to work in the dangerous mine.

More than 60 miners were arrested, the BBC reported Feb. 17. Some of the people were armed and the situation was "lawless," said Aubrey Wehye, Tapeta district superintendent.

Archievego Doe, a member of the disaster management agency, told the BBC that these miners had "resisted" the government's effort to improve order.

In the statement, the Pope promised to pray for all involved, asking God to grant strength to the victim's loved ones and emergency workers.   

"He prays for those who mourn the loss of their loved ones and the emergency personnel who assist the victims. Upon all the Holy Father invokes the divine blessings of strength and healing."

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