ARUSHA, Tanzania (AP) -- At least 75 miners are missing and believed to have died in tanzanite mines flooded by heavy rains in northeastern Tanzania, a government official said Saturday.
A journalist and a mine owner said at least six bodies have been recovered so far.
Mine owners reported the 75 men went missing Friday as heavy rains pounded their mines in Mererani, 25 miles southeast of Arusha, said Manyara Regional Commissioner Henry Shekifu.
The Tanzanian government is trying to get equipment to the mines to drain the water in hopes of retrieving the men, Shekifu said.
Journalist Paul Sarawatt, who is in Mererani, told The Associated Press that he saw six bodies removed from one of the affected mines.
About five mines were flooded, said Sey Hassan, who owns one of them.
"We saw floating bodies and we recovered two bodies," Hassan told The Associated Press by phone from Mererani. It was not clear whether the bodies to which he referred were among those the journalist saw.
He said it had not rained so far Saturday.
The government licenses the tanzanite mines, and most miners work for themselves, normally using ropes to lower themselves into shafts dug by hand.
The mines, which amount to little more than holes hundreds of feet deep with few safety measures, are notoriously dangerous places to work.
Tanzanite, which can be purplish blue, green, yellow, pink or violet, was first introduced to the world market by the New York-based jeweler, Tiffany and Co., which named the gemstone in honor of its country of origin.
Copyright 2008 The Associated Press.