Representative image

A rescue team retrieved another body of a trapped miner from a flooded coal pit in Meghalaya’s East Jaintia Hills district on June 24.

With this, two bodies were being retrieved from the coal pit where five miners were trapped since May 30, officials said. The first body was recovered on June 16.

State Disaster Management Authority executive director Ibashisha Mawlong said that the second body was retrieved from the 152-feet deep pit by Navy and National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) divers after the first body was recovered on June 16.

“The rescuers, despite inclement weather, low visibility and other hurdles, continued their efforts to recover all the five bodies from the coal mine,” Mawlong told mediapersons.

She said that the high-level of water in the coal mine hindered the rescue operations.

Mawlong, who is also Meghalaya’s joint secretary, revenue and disaster management, said that rescue operations involving the NDRF are going on since the five workers got trapped inside the coal mine on May 30.

A 13-member Indian Navy team also joined the rescue operation on June 12 with remotely operated vehicles (ROV), Diver Hand Held Navigation System (DHNS) and other equipment, she said.

A Navy diver was also seriously injured during the risky operations, the Meghalaya official said.

Over 50 personnel comprising NDRF, Meghalaya State Disaster Response Force, Fire and Emergency Service and the police personnel have been deployed at the site to conduct the crucial task of searching and retrieving the bodies of the miners.

According to Fire and Emergency Service officials, the vertical depth of water inside the pit is nearly 152 feet. Other rescuers said the depth of the rat hole mine would be more than 500 feet.

Following the accident at the mine at Umpleng Elaka Sutnga, East Jaintia Hills superintendent of police, Jagpal Singh Dhanoa, had said these workers got trapped due the sudden rush of water inside the mine after the dynamite blast used to split the coal pit and within no time, the mine was inundated.

Of the five miners, four were from Assam while one is from Tripura. Six co-workers managed to save themselves as they were on the outer side of the mine then and have returned to their homes in Assam.

Police earlier arrested mine owner, Shining Langstang, and charged him with violation of the National Green Tribunal (NGT) order banning unscientific mining and transportation of coal.

The ‘Sordar’ (mine manager and head of the workers) is on the run and a lookout notice has been issued since he had brought the workers from Assam and Tripura to work in the illegal mine.

At least six people, who hailed from Assam’s Karimganj district, were killed when they were working inside a coal mine in East Jaintia Hills on January 21 this year.

The latest incident on May 30 is a grim reminder of the December 2018 tragedy in the same district when 15 migrant miners from Assam died inside in an abandoned coal mine. The 15 miners had been stuck in the coal mine at a depth of nearly 370 feet after a tunnel was flooded with water from the nearby Lytein river. But their bodies could not be retrieved.

In April 2014, the NGT had banned the indiscriminate and hazardous rat hole coal mining in Meghalaya. But mining continued illegally with the authorities turning a blind eye, allege environmental activists in Meghalaya and Assam.

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