Tragedy has gripped the village of Harawa, in central Cuba, with two boys, aged 9 and 10, drowned after falling in a swollen stream while allegedly mining for coal.
A 7-year-old boy said to be a player with the village’s soccer team witnessed the tragedy.
He reportedly chased the boys as they jumped in the stream but lost sight of them when the torrent began to rise.
Police have detained five people from the village’s coal extractors, according to the Associated Press. Police say a person calling himself Fidel Rivera claimed to be the manager of the group and that they were investigating the mining allegation.
According to the AFP, children and adults routinely dive into the river and it’s unclear how old they are when the accident occurs.
The same river where the boys died was flooded last month, according to the town’s mayor, also calling the incident a “tragedy.”
The district of Matanzas state produces 700,000 metric tons of coal per year, more than two thirds of Cuba’s total output. It is expected to produce more than 800,000 metric tons this year, with new power plants that produce coal for the island expected to be in operation by 2020.
The use of river for mining has been an issue for decades but some groups have called for it to be shut down and for the local authorities to deny mining permits to anyone.
“The children are the property of the state. And the mining business is irresponsible. It can kill people. I call on the authorities to penalize the victims’ parents because the death occurred under their (regime),” Anayansi, an activist, said.
Harawa has a population of around 300 and produces coal for France’s Orange, Danish company Dansk Supermarked and British firm BHP. It is home to the highest grade coal of any province in the country.