At least 30 people were killed when a gold mine collapsed in northeastern Afghanistan on Sunday, officials said, in the latest tragedy to strike the war-torn country.
Another seven were injured in the incident in Kohistan district of Badakhshan province, district governor Mohammad Rustam Raghi told AFP.
Villagers had dug a 60-metre (200-feet) deep shaft in a river bed to search for gold. They were inside when the walls fell in.
"The people were using an excavator to dig a big hole in the river when it collapsed, trapping dozens of workers," Raghi said.
"At least 30 people have been killed and seven wounded."
It was not clear why the shaft collapsed, but the provincial governor’s spokesman Nik Mohammad Nazari told AFP the miners were not professionals.
"The villagers have been involved in this business for decades with no government control over them," Nazari said.
"We have sent a rescue team to the area, but villagers have already started removing bodies from the site."
Defense ministry helicopters have been dispatched to deliver cash to the families of the victims and airlift the wounded to hospitals, said Hashmat Bahaduri, spokesman for the National Disaster Management Authority.
Bahaduri confirmed the casualty toll, but warned the figures could change.
Families of the wounded will receive 10,000 afghanis (about $130) in compensation, while those of the dead will get 50,000 afghanis, he said.
Badakhshan is a remote, mountainous province in northeast Afghanistan bordering Tajikistan, China and Pakistan.
The impoverished region is prone to landslides, particularly in the colder months when heavy snow blankets the province.
Illegal mining is common in resource-rich Afghanistan, with the Taliban relying on the sector for much of its revenue.
But most of the country’s minerals remain untapped as the raging conflict and lack of regulation deter international miners from exploiting the huge reserves.