Five days on, efforts to trace trapped miners in Meghalaya fail to yield result; govt. seek Home Ministry’s help
Shillong, Dec. 17 (PTI): Five days since 13 miners were reportedly trapped in a rat-hole coal mine in Meghalaya’s East Jaintia Hills district, all efforts to locate them have turned futile.
The miners were now feared dead as water from a nearby river has been gushing into the 370-feet-deep pit.
One person, identified as Krip Chullet, has been arrested so far pertaining to the case. Chullet was allegedly involved in hiring labourers, overseeing the work and sending them down the shaft.
A senior district official, who is supervising the operation, told PTI that authorities have drawn a blank over the past five days in their attempt to pump out water from the mine.
“There is no sign of dip in water level even after putting three pumps into service. We have not been able to trace any victim as yet,” he said.
Over 100 personnel of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) and the State Disaster Response Force (SDRF), along with police teams, are waiting for the water level to subside to begin rescue operations, the official said.
According to an expert in water resources management, over 5 lakh litres of water, reaching up to 70 feet, is estimated to be present in the main shaft of the mine.
“It seems water from nearby Ltein river is refilling the mine even as the pumps are in operation,” he said.
The survival of the trapped miners depends on the oxygen supply, water level and the temperature inside, a doctor of a reputed hospital in Shillong said.
“A person can survive without food for seven days depending on the reserves he has in his body. The oxygen supply inside the mine also determines the time period for which they could survive,” he told PTI.
Meanwhile, Congress MLA Azad Zaman, who visited the site Sunday, claimed that one of the trapped miners was his relative.
The legislator had also said that he would call on Chief Minister Conrad Sangma later in the day to discuss the prevalence of illegal coal mining in the state.
In 2014, the National Green Tribunal had imposed a ban in Meghalaya on rat-hole coal mining a technique that entails digging small vertical pits to reach the mineral.
The Meghalaya government on Monday sought the Union Home Ministry’s help to rescue 13 miners who were trapped in an illegal coal mine in Meghalaya’s East Jaintia Hills district for the past five days, Chief Minister Conrad K Sangma said.
The decision to seek MHA help comes after the initial rescue operations proved to be futile and the exercise to pump water out of the 370-feet-deep mine yielded little result, he told newsmen here.
The miners were trapped on December 13 after water from nearby Lytein river had gushed into the illegal rat-hole mine at Ksan area Lumthari village, a senior district official, who is supervising the rescue operation, said, adding that the miners are now feared dead.
“I have spoken to the Union Minister of State for Home Affairs Kiren Rijiju and requested him to send in more professional teams and the best equipment they have,” Chief Minister Conrad K Sangma told mediapersons at the sidelines of a programme here on Monday.
The union minister, he said, has taken up the matter with experts and soon more assistance would arrive at the accident site.
Conrad said rescue teams are trying their “level best” but the situation was “very difficult” as no matter how many pumps they used the flow of water was so high they were unable to bring it down to a level where they would be able to rescue the trapped miners.
He assured the government will engage “whoever it takes and will try its level best to save the lives of the people who are trapped inside”.
Rescuers are using the sonar system and underwater cameras to detect the 13 miners but due to poor visibility in the water, the trapped miners could not be located, officials said.