The Indian Navy on Monday completed mapping of the 152-metre-deep vertical shaft of the flooded coal mine in Meghalayas East Jaintia Hills district where five miners remain trapped since May 30, an official said. The water level at the mine in Umpleng area was recorded to be 33 metres deep and the rescuers managed to dive up to a depth of 15 metres inside the flooded mine, said district deputy commissioner E Kharmalki.
The team of Navy personnel had successfully conducted the mapping process of the bottom of the vertical shaft using their remotely operated vehicle (ROV), and sonar machines. According to a magistrate at the accident site, the dewatering exercise is continuing and a total of 2.52 lakh litres have been pumped out of the main shaft and 8.64 lakh litres have been removed from the second mine, both of which are interconnected.
Around 60 personnel of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) and various state agencies are waiting for the water level to come down to about 10 metres in the 152-metre- deep pit, as that is the maximum level in which they can work. Using the ROV, a team of the Indian Navy had located three bodies weeks after the shaft of another mine at Lumthari in the same district was filled with water from a river on December 13, 2018.
The unmanned ROV was sent down the flooded rat-hole coal mine to determine visibility inside it. At the Umpleng mine accident this time, at least five people have been identified by the district administration - four from Assam and one from Tripura- who got stuck somewhere inside the rat-hole mine after it was flooded following a dynamite explosion on May 30.
The rat-hole mine is located about 20 km from Khliehriat, the headquarters of the East Jaintia Hills district. Hazardous rat-hole coal mining is not permitted in Meghalaya after the National Green Tribunal (NGT) banned it in 2014.
A deep vertical shaft is dug till coal seams are found in the rat-hole mining. Once the seams are found, coal is taken out through small holes along the horizontal line of the coal seams. Six co-workers of the trapped miners escaped the tragedy as they were outside the mine at the time of the incident and they have been escorted to their homes in Assam.
The police arrested the owner of the coal mine, Shining Langstang, and charged him with violation of the NGT order banning unscientific mining and transportation of coal. The 'Sordar' (mine manager) is on the run and a lookout notice has been issued since he was the one who brought migrant workers from Assam and Tripura to work in the illegal mine, a senior police officer said.
Based on the account of the survivors, an FIR was registered.