At least 13 miners are feared dead after they got trapped in an illegal coal mine in the East Jaintia Hills district of Meghalya
At least 13 miners are feared dead after they got trapped by flooding in an illegal coal mine in the East Jaintia Hills district of Meghalya. Rescue efforts which began on Thursday continued Saturday morning without much success in retrieving the thirteen people.
Two teams of NDRF (National Disaster Relief Force) comprising 60 personnel and 12 rescue workers of the State Disaster Response Force (SDRF) were pressed into service.
The coal mine is 370-feet deep and the water level which remains at 70 feet hasn’t receded and more pumps will be deployed.
NDRF rescuers and divers searched inside the flooded coal mine and all accessible areas with the help of boats. Poor visibility inside the mine due to muddy water and coal dust remains a big challenge for the rescuers. No map or plan of the mine – divided into chambers – is available, making it tougher to locate the trapped people.
The police in East Jaintia Hills, who got to know about the missing miners on Thursday morning, said the mine appears to be an old, abandoned one where illegal mining had resumed about a week ago. “Rat hole” mines are common in Meghalaya as they are dug by locals but are very dangerous as the coal is pulled out from narrow, horizontal seams.
“The focus is on the rescue operations in the area. We are concerned about them. The NDRF and the police are leading the operation. We admit that illegal mining was going on. We will take action. This is not acceptable,” Meghalaya Chief Minister Conrad Sangma told media.
A complaint has been registered against the owner of the mine who is missing.
Three of the trapped miners inside are from Lumthari in Meghalaya. The remaining 10 are from West Garo Hills and neighbouring Assam.
The National Green Tribunal had banned coal mining in Meghalaya in 2014 after environmental activists complained it was responsible for severe water pollution.
But the practice continues with miners illegally extracting coal using dangerous so-called rat hole mines which often lead to accidents.