Number of miners trapped in 'rat-hole' coal mine in Meghalaya goes up to 15: 7 days on, incessant rain makes rescue ops tricky

Shillong: The number of people trapped inside the rat-hole mines of East Jaintia Hills district of Meghalaya has gone up to 15. Reports confirmed the news as officials are still attempting to rescue the miners who have been tapped inside the illegal coal mines.

Police on Wednesday evening said that another person from Assam was trapped in the Ksan coal mine. The miner has been identified as Asish Bahadur Limbu, son of Ram Prasad Limbu from Karbi Anglong district in Assam.

 Number of miners trapped in rat-hole coal mine in Meghalaya goes up to 15: 7 days on, incessant rain makes rescue ops tricky

Police on Wednesday evening said that another person from Assam was trapped in the Ksan coal mine. The miner has been identified as Asish Bahadur Limbu from Assam. Image/101Reporters

Initially, when the incident occurred on 13 December, authorities had estimated that there were 13 miners trapped inside. On Monday, one Abdul Kalam Sheikh a resident of Magurmari village, West Garo Hills, who is a miner too, was reported missing.

Family members of Sheikh approached the local police on Monday, following which it was confirmed that he too was missing in the accident.

At least, 70 National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) and 22 State Disaster Response Force (SDRF) personnel including deep divers are engaged in the rescue operation. Image/101Reporters

At least, 70 National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) and 22 State Disaster Response Force (SDRF) personnel including deep divers are engaged in the rescue operation. Image/101Reporters

Twenty-one-year old survivor Sayeb Ali from Panbari village in the Chirang district of Assam said that the number of persons trapped inside the illegal coal mine is expected to be close to 17. Ali had said that the day the incident occured, there were 22 people in all. Five of them were on the ground while 17 others were busy cutting coal when allegedly water from the nearby Lytein river entered the illegal rat-hole mineshaft .

At least, 70 National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) and 22 State Disaster Response Force (SDRF) personnel including deep divers are engaged in the rescue operation.

Wading through the water continues to be the biggest challenge for the rescue teams. According to authorities involved in the rescue operation, despite continuous efforts of pumping out the water from the mine, the water level is still on the rise.

With the state witnessing untimely rains since Tuesday, the rescue operation is even more complicated. "Water level in the mine has risen by two feet and two inches in spite of continuous pumping. River water has also risen. This is all because of the rain," SK Singh, Assistant Commandant, 1st Battalion, NDRF said on Wednesday.

According to mine safety experts, machines that can pump out at least 500 gallons of water per minute are required for the rescue mission. But these machines are not available in the area, and only a few companies in India manufacture them.

Mining expert Jaswant Singh Gill, who had saved the lives of 64 miners in Raniganj of West Bengal in 1989 will arrive at Ksan, under Nongkhlieh Elaka. Gill has been entrusted to lead the rescue operation.

The mine is located at Ksan near the Lyteiñ river under Saipung police station.

Meghalaya's revenue and disaster management minister Kyrmen Shylla admitted that officials are trying everything even though it is a tricky operation and chances of survival are bleak. Locals from the area, familiar with the mines, said that there are hundreds of coal mines in the area which are interconnected. They also said that it might take months to pump the water out of the mines.

The author is a Meghalaya-based journalist and and a member of 101Reporters.com

Updated Date: Dec 20, 2018 13:40:28 IST