Buried alive

Search for water turns deadly

17 June 2019 | Crime

Two Ohangwena men - 29-year-old Kashima Junias Hauwanga and 36-year-old Jacob Hangula - died after the well they were digging collapsed, burying them alive.

The Ohangwena police said an inquest will have to be held at the Eenhana district court to determine whether anyone can be held responsible for their deaths at Okatope village.

Hauwanga and Hangula were trapped in the six-metre-deep hole on Saturday afternoon. Their bodies were only recovered yesterday morning.

Due to the severe drought and water shortages in the area, Fellep Haipinge approached a senior citizen who is a traditional water consultant in the area, who claimed there was a water fountain at the edge of his mahangu field.

Haipinge contacted another senior citizen with experience in establishing traditional wells to help him dig a well to get water for his livestock and domestic use.

According to Haipinge, the senior citizen he contracted then employed two young men to help him dig the well under his supervision. They started digging last month, and unfortunately on Saturday, a massive heap of loose sand fell into the well, trapping them.

According to regional crime coordinator, Deputy Commissioner Sakaria Amakali, the incident happened at around 14:00 on Saturday and the bodies were only recovered on Sunday morning. He said four men, including their supervisor who is a senior citizen, were involved in the digging of the well.

“A report came in that a heap of loose sand fell into a well where two people were busy digging and they were trapped.

We quickly sent a rescue team that was also joined by emergency officials from the Helao Nafidi town council. We started searching for them around 15:00, but we could not get them until it got late. We stopped and proceeded today (yesterday) and at around 11:00 we got to them,” said Amakali.

“The (circumference of the) well they were digging was too small and what we have observed is that the sand is loose and they did not make any plan to stop it and this was the dangerous part of it. The third victim survived as he was getting out of the well when it happened, while the supervisor was out of the well monitoring the work.”

Amakali said the police will open an inquest docket and the Eenhana court will have to determine whether someone can be held accountable.

Haipinge said he established his homestead last year after he got married.

He said there is no water in the area, which led to him to approach a traditional water consultant, who found water at the edge of his mahangu field.

“I asked people from the area who could be able to make for me a well and they referred me to one elderly man. I contracted him and he employed the two young men to help him. When the incident happened I was not home because I stay at Eenhana, where I work. I just received a call that two people got trapped in a well,” Haipinge said.

“It is very sad what happened and I have no words to say. The third, I am told, was just a neighbour who was assisting so that his cattle can also benefit once water is found.”

Okatope resident Fillip Shaduka said the water crisis in the area became severe after the owners of traditional wells, where people usually get water from, started denying them access.

“Piped water in our area is a luxury and only a few people have access to it. The rest depend on traditional water wells at our neighbours. Due to the drought situation, neighbours also do not want us to get water from their wells anymore and that is why people are making efforts like these; unfortunately they are turning deadly,” said Shaduka.

Attempts to get comment from regional councillor Johannes Hakanyome failed, as he said he was in a meeting when contacted.

Amakali cautioned residents not to risk their lives by engaging in deadly activities. He said they should rather approach those with equipment to drill boreholes for them.