Shillong: The fate of 14 miners, who have been trapped in a flooded coal pit in Meghalaya’s East Jaintia Hills district for a week, remains unknown as rescuers are battling with the surging water level inside the 370-feet coal pit, an official said Wednesday.
The Meghalaya Human Rights Commission (MHRC) has filed a Suo Motu case against the state government for compensation for the trapped miners inside the illegal mine.
A government official, who is overseeing the rescue operations at the Lumthari mining site, about 130 km from here, said the trapped miners are feared dead as the water from nearby Lytein stream is gushing into the pit.
“Only a miracle can save these miners. None of us knows where these miners are. They need oxygen and food to survive,” the official told IANS on condition of anonymity.
The National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) has used sonar system and underwater camera to detect the trapped miners. However, the system failed to locate any of those trapped in the main well due to poor visibility.
Experts from Coal India Limited, geologists have visited the site.
Meghalaya Police arrested Jrin alias Krip Chulet, the owner of the coal mine from Narwan village. Police said that a hunt is on to arrest the other members of the illegal mining nexus.
The accident inside the coal pit on December 13 morning was of significance, especially after the National Green Tribunal (NGT) had ordered an interim ban on “rat-hole” coal mining in the state from April 17, 2014.
“The State Human Rights Commission has issued a notice to the Chief Secretary Y. Tsering to conduct an inquiry into the entire matter and submit a detailed report before the State Commission within 30 days,” MHRC Secretary Aldous Mawlong said.
The State Commission is of the firm opinion to grant interim relief to the next of kin of those unfortunate miners, Mawlong said.
“We are putting all efforts to evacuate the trapped miners. We are using all available technology,” Assistant Commandant NDRF, Santosh Kumar Singh, told IANS.
More than 100 rescuers including 72 members from the NDRF, 23 from State Disaster Response Force (SDRF) and five members of the Fire and Emergency Service were deployed at the site.
“We suspect the miners are trapped inside the lateral mining chambers of coal pit. It is difficult to know as to how many chambers are there because of poor visibility,” Singh said.
Police has registered a case against the mine owner under several sections of the Prevention of Damage to Public Property Act, and Section 21(1) of the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act.
Chief Minister Conrad Sangma had promised that “appropriate action will be taken at appropriate time against the people who are involved in the illegal mining and this is not acceptable to us”.
Coal mine accidents are common in the mountainous state because of unscientific mining procedure, commonly known as “rat hole mining”.