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All 14 Labourers Trapped for 7 Days Inside Meghalaya Mine Feared Dead

Though a team of over 100 people are engaged in the rescue process, including seventy National Disaster Relief Forces and twenty two from their state counterpart, no headway has been made yet.

Shreya Dhoundial, Subhajit Sengupta

Updated:December 19, 2018, 11:55 PM IST
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All the 14 miners trapped in a coal mine in Meghalaya’s East Jaintia hills are feared to be dead. The rescue workers have not managed to establish any contact with the miners since the night of December 12.

That night water from nearby Letein river gushed in and filled up these ‘illegal rat-hole’ mines.

Though a team of over 100 people are engaged in the rescue process, including seventy National Disaster Relief Forces and twenty two from their state counterpart, no headway has been made yet. There are eight divers on stand-by but they can only go in when the water levels are around 30-40 feet, currently the water level is over 70 feet in these 250 feet deep coal mines.

News18 has accessed the status report submitted by the East Jaintia Hill District administration to the Additional Chief Secretary of the state. The report states that in spite of continuous pumping all through the day, the water level has not gone down. The coal mine shaft is suspected to be interlinked with over 20 such shafts spread over area of five kilometres. These shafts are located 11 feet below the Letein river, the main source of flooding. The report says water from 20 odd shafts needs to be pumped out continuously over a period of a month, to bring the water level down.

Though recently 12 boys and their football coach was rescued from Tham Luang cave in Thailand after 18 days, experts say the conditions are very different in Ksan mines of the East Jaintia hills. For starters, contact was established between the young footballers and the rescue team. Life essentials were sent and oxygen supply was ensured. Here no contact could be established between the miners. They have access to no food or drinking water or even oxygen. Thus the rescue officers on the ground are of the opinion that there is very little chance of survival of any of the trapped miners.

The accident inside the coal shaft on December 12 morning showed that mining has continued unabated in-spite of the National Green Tribunal (NGT) order which banned "rat-hole" coal mining in the state from April 17, 2014. Permission was only given to sell off the existing stock of coal which had already been mined.

But sources said this rouse was used by the coal mine owners to continue mining.

The reason the practice is called ‘rat-hole’ mining is because coal is brought out through a narrow tunnels which are big enough for only one worker at a time. These narrow tunnels often more than 250-300 feet deep are used to reach the coal seams. Activists moved NGT against this ‘inhuman’ mining method, which damaged Meghalaya’s fragile ecosystem, consequently the practice was banned by NGT. The order was challenged by the Coal Mine Owners in Supreme Court, where the matter is still pending a decision.

The owner of the mine James Sukhlain is still absconding, though the police arrested one Krip Chulet in the case.

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| Edited by: Ahona Sengupta
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