At least 60 miners have been killed by a landslide in a remote gold mine in northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo.
When the shaft collapsed on Monday, the miners were trapped about 100 meters below the surface.
Rescue operations were delayed and obstructed by the local militia groups in the dense jungle terrain, making it extremely difficult for rescue teams to reach potential survivors.
Local administrator Faustin Drakana Kananga told The Associated Press on Thursday that it took crews four days to get to the mine following Monday's accident in Pangoyi, a town in the far north-east corner of the country where central government hardly exerts any control.
The local government chief told UN-backed Radio Okapi that the mine has been recently abandoned after clashes between the army and a local militia group led by Paul Sadala, known as 'Morgan.'
Congo's minister of mines, Martin Kabwelulu, told Reuters the workers were there illegally and that their shafts were deeper than the 30-metre (32-yard) limit required by the mining code for small-scale mining.
As 71 percent of the population is living below the poverty level in DR Congo, hundreds of thousands of people in eastern Congo have no choice but to make a living in non-industrial mines, where few safety precautions, if any, are followed.
Such mining accidents are common, but still the mines in nearby regions continue to operate in similar conditions.
According to Al Jazeera, some of the workers are forced to mine by local militias and government soldiers who illegally profit from Congo's massive mineral resources.
DR Congo is a country of superlatives. While it is vast and rich with essential minerals such as gold and coltan, a metallic ore that is a vital component of mobile phone, the people suffer a living standard among the lowest in the world.
With a government that can neither provide security, education nor health care for its citizens, DR Congo was categorized as a "critically failed state" by Foreign Policy magazine in its Failed States Index.