Shillong: The National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) and State Disaster Response Force (SDRF) on Thursday began their operation to rescue five miners trapped inside a flooded illegal coal pit for the past five days in Meghalaya’s East Jaintia Hills district, but the fate of the miners remain unknown.
Chief Minister Conrad Sangma has assured “appropriate action” against people involved in illegal coal mining. He said that the government was doing whatever possible to bring out the miners safely.
“All steps and all measures will be taken to ensure we can get them alive and will do our best and hope that we can save them,” the Chief Minister told reporters.
At least, five migrant miners, including four from Assam and one from Tripura, have been trapped inside a 500-foot flooded coal mine since May 30. The miners got trapped inside as water gushed into the mine after a dynamite explosion.
“The NDRF started its rescue operations on Thursday. The team assessed the depth of the water in the main shaft of the coal mine is 150 feet which are not conducive for the rescuers to dive inside the water to trace the trapped miners,” District Magistrate of East Jaintia Hills, E. Kharmalki told UNI.
He said additional water pumps would be installed for dewatering the coal mine to reduce the water level in the shaft.
Meanwhile, Meghalaya police on Thursday arrested Shining Langstang, the owner of the illegal coal mine in Umpleng area.
Police said that a hunt is on for more people including Nizam Uddin, the manager of the illegal coal mine, who absconded following the mining tragedy.
Asserting that illegal activities would not be allowed, the Chief Minister said that all efforts have been continuously made by the government to ensure there are no illegal activities taking place.
“We have seen unfortunately that in some areas this has happened but from the government side, we are very firm, we are very clear that none of these illegal activities will be allowed and anybody involved in such activities, strict action as per law will be taken against them,” Sangma reiterated.
On the opposition Congress’ demand for setting up separate independent inquiries in different coal-rich districts to end the illegal coal trade, the Chief Minister assured that the government would examine the suggestion.
“We have been very clear and have taken several steps to ensure that illegal mining does not take place but we will examine this demand that has come from the opposition and accordingly will take action after examining the entire matter,” he added.
Pointing out that the prevailing rainy weather has made it difficult for the rescue team, the Chief Minister said, “We hope that with the rain stopping there will be some scope for us to be able to work. I have requested the home minister to personally visit the site and monitor this entire situation, which he has been doing.”
Quoting official reports submitted to the government, Sangma said that the coal mine was abandoned for quite some time. “From the initial reports that are coming to us, there was some kind of activity which looked like they were looking at the option of starting mining out there. So it was technically an abandoned coal mine – what was the purpose of them going there we don’t know but we can presume it was to start some kind of mining but again it is something which is not very clear,” the Chief Minister stated.