'Retrieve bone if you can't pull out body': Family of Meghalaya miners trapped in illegal rat-hole mine appeal to rescuers

  • Three days after rescuers detected one body trapped in the Meghalaya mine, where 17 miners were trapped over a month ago, have urged the rescuers to recover the bodies in whatever shape they are

  • We want the bodies, if you cannot pull out the bodies, even a bone will do, for we need to perform their last rites, says a relative of one of the miners who got trapped

  • The rescuers, however, are not too certain about pulling out the body owing to the fragile state of the body

Three days after rescuers detected one body trapped in at the accident site of Ksan coal mine in Meghalaya's East Jaintia Hills, the family members of 17 ill fated coal miners have urged the rescuers to recover the bodies in whatever shape they are. The body which was detected 160 feet under water have not been recovered yet because of its fragile state. According to NDRF officials, the body will start disintegrating if it is pulled too hard.

"We want the bodies, if you cannot pull out the bodies, even a bone will do, for we need to perform their last rites," says Nurkamal Sheikh, uncle of Moinul Islam and Amir Hussain, two of the coal miners who were trapped in the illegal rat-hole mine on 13 December.

Manik Ali, brother of Moinul Islam, has been stationed at the accident site for the past four days in the hope that his brother's body may be found. "I go to the site early morning and spend my whole day helping with the rescue operation and talking to the officers there. At night, I and one of my friends Amin Uddin sleep in a Mosque as arranged by the SP (Superintendent of Police) Sir of Khlierhriat police station."

 Retrieve bone if you cant pull out body: Family of Meghalaya miners trapped in illegal rat-hole mine appeal to rescuers

File image of search operations at Meghalaya mine. Image Sourced by 101Reporters.

Amin Uddin, a 22 year-old coal miner had proved to be crucial in spotting the body inside the mine as he was one of the 17 miners who were involved in digging the 320-feet-deep rat-hole mine. Amin was fortunate as he had left for his home town in Assam's Hojai district six days before the tragic accident.

"Ten days ago, Manik Ali asked me to go with him to help the rescue team with the  knowledge I had of the mine. I knew the directions of the mine that leads to the basin. I and others had dug the mine for months and I was also involved in taking out coal. But I came to my home on 7 December as I wanted to vote in the Panchayat Elections. Because of the elections I could escape the tragedy," says Amin.

With the help of the input of Amin, Sayeb Ali — another survivor — and some other coal miners involved in digging of the mine, the joint rescue team was able to detect the first body, 34 days after the accident.

"After the first 30 feets the vertical rat-hole forks into two directions, left and right. Both the paths go down up to  300-350 feet deep. I could guess where the workers might be trapped. We prepared a map with the rescue team and accordingly they could trace the body. There will be more bodies nearby" Amin says.

Although many family members of the trapped miners have been stationed at the site, no one has been able to identify the body that was spotted on Wednesday with the help of an underwater Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) at a depth of 160 ft. It was found in the left fork of the coal mine. The deceased person could be seen wearing a black pant and a red shirt. However, the body could not be pulled out as it has started to disintegrate.

Santosh Kumar Singh, Assistant Commandant of the 1st Battalion of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), who is currently heading the rescue team said, "Input from those who had worked in the coal mine are extremely important and has been of great help in detecting the body. We do not have a compass to detect the different routes where the bodies could be stuck. But with the inputs from those who knew the mine well, we could detect the body."

Singh said, at present, the rescue heads are holding meetings almost every day to decide on the future course of rescue operation. However, the district authorities have refused to reveal any more details.

Meghalaya chief minister Conrad Sangma said on Friday, "There is a need to have regulated mining in Meghalaya with utmost care of safety of miners and environment. The ban on mining has affected the socio-economic condition of the people, who are dependent on coal, as well as caused a loss of revenue for the state."

Sangma on Friday held a meeting with Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh to discuss the issue of coal mining in the state in presence of official from the Ministry of Home and Department of Mining, Government of Meghalaya. The Supreme Court has meanwhile stopped transportation of already extracted coal in the state.

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Updated Date: Jan 19, 2019 14:24:58 IST