Meghalaya coal mine mishap: No headway in rescue of 17 trapped miners; families lose hope of seeing them alive

The 17 miners who are trapped in an illegal coal mine in Meghalaya since Thursday have not been rescued yet owing to difficulty in pumping out water.

The mine, in East Jaintia Hills district, is about 800 metres away from the Lytein river. It's one of the many illegal mines operating in the region. On Thursday morning, the 320-feet-deep and 20-feet-wide mine got filled with water from the river, rendering 17 young men digging coal inside unable to come out.

 Meghalaya coal mine mishap: No headway in rescue of 17 trapped miners; families lose hope of seeing them alive

Rescue operation underway in East Jaintia Hills district, where 17 men are trapped inside an illegal coal mine since Thursday morning.
Image: Meghalaya Police (Sourced by 101Reporters.)

A 70-member team of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), a 12-member team of the State Disaster Response Force and an 11-member team of the civil defence have been trying to pump out water from the mine but incoming water from the channels that filled it in the first place is bringing their effort to nought.

Confirming this, SK Shastri, commandant of 1st Battalion of the NDRF, said that while they had been using three motors to pump out water since Thursday, the district administration has now provided them five more. He said the NDRF has six divers on the spot but the water level is not suitable yet for divers to go in. He said if all the eight motors began pumping out water on Monday, water level could go down in another three days. However, going deep with the motor and the pipe is proving to be another challenging for the rescue teams.

Sylvester Nongtngr, Superintendent of Police of East Jaintia Hills district, said that since the mine is illegal, no site mapping or danger assessment was done before miners went in looking for coal.

CIL called for help

The Meghalaya government has roped in India's largest coal producer Coal India Limited (CIL) to help with the rescue operation. The central government-owned company has been brought in due to its expertise in mining, danger assessment and rescue. A delegation led by Northeast Coal India Limited is on the spot to assess the situation.

Deputy Commissioner of East Jaintia Hills, Frederick M Dopth, said he could not share much as the administration's sole focus is on rescuing the trapped men. He exuded hope that the CIL team would help them expedite the operation.

Meghalaya. Image: Meghalaya Police (Sourced by 101Reporters.)

Meghalaya. Image: Meghalaya Police (Sourced by 101Reporters.)

However, Meghalaya chief minister Conrad Sangma has described the situation as difficult. Stating that the water level was not receding and was hampering all efforts, he told mediapersons that the rescue teams are doing all they can. He said he had spoken with Union minister Kiren Rijiju the day after the incident to request for more help.

Families want bodies

Meanwhile, families of these miners are losing hope of seeing them alive. Nurkamal Shah, uncle of Amir Hussain and Moinul Islam, two coal miners from Assam’s Chirang district who are stuck in the mine, said he would plead with their local MLA for help. He said it would be stupid to hope they might still be alive but the family is keen on receiving their bodies for last rites. Otherwise, he said, the pain and agony will never go away from their heart. He has organised a prayer meeting too in his village, Panbari.

The police on Monday learnt about one more person trapped in the mine. He has been identified as Abdul Kalam from West Garo Hills in Meghalaya. With this, police have been able to identify 14 miners. However, according to an eyewitness, 17 people are trapped inside.

Updated Date: Dec 17, 2018 22:39:36 IST