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Tuesday, September 21, 2021
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Families of trapped miners in Meghalaya lose hopes

Unscientific ‘rat-hole' coal mining has been banned in the unregulated mines in Meghalaya since April 2014 by a National Green Tribunal order, but illegal mines like this one have flourished freely due to poor enforcement of the ban.

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Shillong: The five migrant labourers, who are trapped since May 30 in an abandoned and flooded coal mine in the East Jaintia Hills district of Meghalaya, are yet to be traced even as rescuers are making all efforts to dewater the 500-feet mine as families of the trapped miners are losing hope on them being alive in the pit for the past six days now.

“It is six days now. We have lost all hope to see him alive. We are only praying they retrieve the bodies so that we can give him a decent burial,” Yeahyea Hussain, the uncle of one of the unidentified victims, Anowarul Islam Bharbhuiya, who is believed to be trapped in the illegal coal mine, told UNI on Saturday.

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The mine mishap occurred when at least five miners entered the coal mine located at Umpleng area under Sutnga Elaka, East Jaintia Hills district, about 100 Km from the State capital Shillong. The miners got trapped inside as water gushed into the mine after a dynamite explosion.

Unscientific ‘rat-hole’ coal mining has been banned in the unregulated mines in Meghalaya since April 2014 by a National Green Tribunal order, but illegal mines like this one have flourished freely due to poor enforcement of the ban.

Voicing displeasure with the “slow pace” of the rescue and search operation, Hussain said, “The Meghalaya government should have installed as many pumps from day one to drain out the water

from the coal pit to ensure that the rescuers can get inside the pit.”

“We want to visit the mining site but none from the Meghalaya government have made any contact with us (families of trapped miners),” Hussain sobbingly said.

District Magistrate of East Jaintia Hills, Ethelbert Kharmalki said the water level inside the main shaft, where miners are believed to be trapped, have receded to about 20 feet from the level of the previous day.

He, however, said that rescuing team comprising the National and States Disaster Response Force and Fire and Emergency could not ascertain whether the receding was due to pumping or natural seepage of the water as there were no rains on Friday.

Kharmalki said that the rescue team has located another mine shaft which is at an aerial distance of 270 metres away from the mine shaft where the accident took place.

“As per NDRF report, this nearby shaft is 330 feet deep and the depth underwater is 152 feet approximately,” the district official said, adding that “there is likelihood that the two shafts may be connected with one another by a same underground tunnel.”

Kharmalki informed that the district administration has written to the Director of Land Records to send a survey team to study the water level of the two shafts Meanwhile, a 200 KVA generator was brought to the incident site to augment the power back up as more pumps are being used to dewater the shaft. More high powered pumps have been requested from Coal India Limited, Guwahati, the top district official said.

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