Rescue workers are trying to reach 13 miners trapped underground in a coal mine in Meghalaya’s East Jaintia Hills district since the previous day but have not been successful due to heavy flooding.
The State Disaster Response Force (SDRF) is being aided by personnel of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) but according to sources, the task is proving to be onerous as entering and navigating the labyrinth of subterranean caves made by rat-hole mining is difficult.
Rat-hole mines are common in Meghalaya as they are dug by villagers but are very dangerous as the coal is pulled out from narrow, horizontal seams.
East Jaintia Hills deputy commissioner FM Dopth told HT that rescue efforts are still underway.
“You must appreciate that rat hole mining often has many channels and tunnels deep inside, so finding the miners so fast is a very challenging task,” the official told HT over the phone. “The mine is still filled with water and we are pumping it out but where it’s coming from can only be ascertained after the water level recedes. We have also pressed scuba divers into service.”
In a statement, Chief Minister Conrad K Sangma has expressed anguish at the unfortunate accident. “We are very concerned about the individuals and their lives….. and we’re all praying for them,” he said.
Incidentally, the chief minister had denied that any illegal coal mining took place in the state after the November 8 attack on activists Agnes Kharshĩing and Amita Sangma of the Civil Society Women’s Organisation (CSWO).
The assault on the women had taken place in Sohshrieh village in the same district when they visited the area to document illegal coal mining. Their attackers are believed to be members of a local coal mafia.
Nidamon Chullet, a senior National Peoples’ Party (NPP) leader of the area was named as the mastermind behind the attack by Sangma, one of the victims, in her formal deposition before the magistrate in November.
Chullet is the East-West Jaintia Hills NPP working president. He had joined the party in December last year in the presence of NPP president and Meghalaya chief minister Conrad K Sangma, home minister James Sangma, PWD minister Comingone Ymbon and a host of party leaders. He is the headman of Mynkrem village and also the Jaintia Hills Truck Owners Association president.
Following yesterday’s incident, the chief minister’s stand on illegal coal mining changed. “We were aware that illegal activities were going on and this again is not right at all,” he said. “I think appropriate action will be taken at the appropriate time against people involved in illegal mining. This is not something acceptable to us.”
Police have released the names of the 13 miners, 3 of whom belong to Lumthari village in the area, 6 to West Garo Hills and the remaining 4 to neighnbouring Assam.
They are Chal Dkhar of Lumthari, East Jaintia Hills (EJH), Iong Dkhar of Lumthari, EJH, Nilam Dkhar of Lumthari, EJH, Omor Ali of Magurmari, West Garo Hills (WGH), Mezamur Islam of Phesiakandi, Rajabala, WGH, Mominul Islam of Rajabala, WGH, Shirapat Ali of Magurmari, WGH, Mozid Sk of Magurmari, WGH, Raziul Islam of Magurmari, Phulbari, WGH, Amir Hussain of Apdaguri, Sirang, Assam, Munirul Islam of Bogidar, Sirang, Assam, Saiar Islam of Khoyarsala, Sirang, Assam and Md. Samsul Haque of Kurihamari, Nalbari, Assam.
First Published: Dec 14, 2018 21:45 IST
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