A South African mining company and a Canadian firm mining in the area have flown in some digging equipment and generators, he said.
All mining activities in the area for the semi-precious tanzanite stone has been halted, Shekifu said. President 'shocked'
Jakaya Kikwete, the Tanzanian president due to travel to the disaster area, said he was "shocked" to hear of the accident and the rising toll.
Officials gave diverging counts of the number of miners who escaped or were rescued from the pits where thousands used to dig to find the purple-blue mineral named after the country.
State radio, quoting the mine owners, said 93 people close to the surface escaped the flooding. Other officials said 35 escaped.
Philip Marmo, state minister at the prime minister's office in charge of disaster response, said the government had approached the army for assistance with the rescue effort.
Mizengo Pinda, the prime minister, said $400,000 had been allocated and 80 additional rescuers hired to bolster the operation.
"My husband is still down there. There are also two brothers-in-law of mine. All I want is to find their bodies"
Rosa Manka, wife of missing miner
Relatives of those missing gathered at the mine but held out little hope of anyone being brought out alive.
"My husband is still down there. There are also two brothers-in-law of mine. All I want is to find their bodies," said Rosa Manka, a young woman, sobbing as two aunts supported her.
In June 2002, at least 39 tanzanite miners died after inhaling carbon monoxide produced from a dynamite explosion, one of the many fatal accidents linked to mining in Tanzania.
Mererani, the site of the disaster, has a history of mining disasters.
In 1998 similar floods claimed more than 100 lives. In 2002, 40 miners died when they were trapped inside tunnels and their oxygen machines failed.
Many workers in Mirerani only receive food rations from their employers and are paid only if they hit tanzanite.
Tanzania's mining sector has expanded rapidly over the past decade after it underwent a process of economic liberalisation in the mid-1980s.
The country is Africa's third-largest gold producer after South Africa and Ghana and is also rich in diamonds, emeralds, rubies and sapphires.
The mining sector contributes less than 3 per cent of the nation's GDP, but the rate should reach 10 per cent by 2025, according to a development plan outlined by the government.