Rescue Operations For Men Trapped In Meghalaya Coal Mines Halted
Twelve days after 15 miners were trapped at an illegal rat-hole mine in Meghalays’s East Jainta Hills district on 13 December, the search and rescue operations conducted to locate them have temporarily been halted, NDTV reported.
On Thursday, 13 December, 15 labourers were trapped inside an illegal coal mine at Ksan in the Saipung area of Meghalaya, when it collapsed and got flooded from the nearby Lytein river, which flows about 800 metres from the mining site.
Although two 25-horsepower (hp) pumps were used by the collective force of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) and the State Disaster Response Force (SDRF) to drain out the flooded mine, there was no headway made in this aspect, as water from a nearby river kept flooding the mine, officials told NDTV.
“We have not found anyone, dead or alive, so we are waiting for support from the state government to carry on the rescue operation," SK Sastri, Commandant of the NDRF's 1st battalion, told NDTV.
The officials added that they had been waiting for 100 hp pumps to arrive for the past three days, as the state government was yet to send them across.
Kin of Trapped Miners Demand Compensation
As the seventh day of rescue operations continue tirelessly for the 15 coal miners stuck inside the illegal rat-hole coal mine, families of the labourers fear that they are already dead.
Despite the combined forces of at least 60 personnel from the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) and at least 12 personnel from the State Disaster Response Force (SDRF) attempting to take out the water from the 370-feet coal pit, they had still not managed to get to the labourers, now feared to be dead.
Standing with banners denouncing illegal mining, the families then demanded compensation from the government – as it allowed illegal mining to run in the state.
Their message to the government was also to reinforce the ban on illegal mining in the state.
On 25 December, Christmas Day, Arch Bishop Dominic Jala called for uniting with the families of the labourers trapped in the mines.
Speaking to Shillong Times, Jala said: “At Christmas while many people are concentrating on singing and carolling, the Church would like to be united with the families whose dear ones are trapped in the coal mines.”
Meghalaya HRC Sends Notice to State Govt
Following the news of the labourers being trapped in the coal mines, the Meghalaya Human Rights Commission, headed by its Chairperson Dr Aftab Hussain Saikia and Member P J P Hanaman, filed a suo motu case against the Government of Meghalaya for compensation of the trapped labourers, who are feared to be dead, The Sentinel reported.
Govt to Take Action Against Those Involved in ‘Illegal Mining’: CM
Responding to the fingers pointed his direction, Chief Minister Conrad Sangma acknowledged the existence of illegal coal-mining in the state, a report by The Shillong Times, stated.
Stating that the state government’s first priority was to rescue the 13 labourers from the coal mine, Sangma promised that strict legal action would be taken against all those who were found to be involved in the illegal practice, the report added.
Sangma seemed to have kept his promise. On the night of Friday, 14 December, one person was arrested for his alleged involvement in operating the mine. The accused, Krip Chulet, was arrested from his home in Norman village, as he was found to be one of the accused persons involved in illegal mining at Ksan area of Lumthari village, Sylvester Nongtynger, Superintendent of Police (SP) of East Jaintia Hills district had told PTI.
We Knew the Mine Was Unsafe, But Worked to Fight Poverty: Eyewitness
A 22-year-old man named Sayeb Ali, who managed to save himself from the incident, by getting out of the mine before it caved in, told NDTV that while all the labourers working in the mine knew that it was a dangerous job, they need to work it to earn their buck.
Ali had just left the mine with his load of coal, when he heard the water gushing into the mine and saw it cave in, trapping the other labourers who were still inside it, the report added.
"The coal was soft. We could understand that there was water seepage that has made it soft. The sardar knew which part of the mine had more water. He stopped us from using two seats of the mine because there were chances of the floor caving in and water gushing inside," Ali told NDTV.
He also added that three of the labourers, who were still stuck inside the mine, were from his village, the report added.