The operation to rescue 13 miners trapped inside a coal pit filled with water in Meghalaya’s East Jaintia Hills district was called off for the day, with officials again saying on Friday that the chances of their survival were bleak.
The NDRF officials called off the rescue operation for the day due to darkness. They had earlier said the miners’ survival chances were low.
Residents of Lumthari village, 130 km from Shillong, said after the accident five miners somehow managed to escape as water gushed inside the 370-feet coal pit.
“The matter came to light only after the five miners managed to come out of the coal pit and alerted others about the accident,” the villagers said.
Deputy Inspector General of Police in-charge Western Range, A.R. Mawthoh and Sylvester Nongtnger, the police chief of East Jaintia Hills, visited the accident site and monitored the rescue operation.
“We are making all efforts to rescue the trapped miners from the coal pit. We are pumping the water out of the pit with the help of generators but the water level has not receded,” Nongtnger told journalists,
He said the actual number of coal miners trapped inside the pit could be more or less.
He said the police have launched a manhunt to arrest James Sukhlain, the coal mine owner, who is now on the run, and others.
“We have registered a case against them for violating NGT order banning coal mining,” Nongtnger said.
A team of 72 members from the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), 23 members from the State Disaster Response Force (SDRF) and five members of the Fire and Emergency service were deployed to rescue the trapped miners.
The accident inside the coal pit on Thursday was of significance, especially because the National Green Tribunal (NGT) had ordered an interim ban on “rat-hole” coal mining in the state from April 17, 2014.
In a statement, Chief Minster Conrad Sangma promised that “Appropriate action will be taken at appropriate time against the people who are involved in the illegal mining and this is not acceptable to us.”
He said the NDRF as well as the SDRF are doing all they can to save the trapped miners.
Coal mine accidents are common in the mountainous state because of unscientific mining commonly known as “rat hole mining”.