More than three weeks after an illegal coal pit in Meghalaya’s East Jaintia district was flooded trapping five miners, rescuers on Friday fished out another body from the 152-metre-deep mine, an official said. This is the third body to be pulled out from the rat-hole mine at Umpleng which was flooded following a dynamite explosion on May 30.
Divers from the Indian Navy retrieved the third body on Friday while another body was recovered from the bottom of the pit on Thursday, district deputy commissioner E Kharmalki said. The body of the miner which was recovered on Friday has been identified as that of Abdul Sukur, 28, hailing from Pingorgool village in Karimganj district of Assam, the official said.
The first body was retrieved on June 16. An inquest was conducted by a magistrate at the spot and the bodies have been sent to a mortuary at the district headquarter town of Khliehriat, 20 km from Umpleng.
The two other bodies have not been identified, the official said. The relatives of the miners hailing from Assam and Tripura have been informed through their respective police stations to come and identify the retrieved bodies, Kharmalki said.
Teams of the Indian NAVY, State Disaster Response Force (SDRF), National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), and state fire and emergency services have been conducting the rescue mission. After the retrieval of the bodies. dewatering has resumed from the two shafts which are interconnected at the coal seams, a magistrate at the site said.
During the dewatering process, about 10.08 lakh litres of water have been pumped out from the main shaft and about 17.55 lakh litres from the second shaft. Six co-workers of the miners had narrowly escaped the tragedy as they were outside the coal pit at the time when dynamite was used to break open coal seams. They were later escorted by Meghalaya police to their homes.
The police had arrested the owner of the coal mine, Shining Langstang, and charged him with violation of a National Green Tribunal (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 had brought migrant workers from Assam and Tripura to work in the illegal mine, a senior police officer said.
Using their sophisticated and unmanned vehicle, the ROV, the Indian Navy had in 2019 pulled out three bodies from another rat-hole coal mine at Lumthari area in the same district. The NGT had in 2014 banned unscientific rat-hole coal mining and transportation for the safety of miners and environmental protection.
A deep vertical shaft is usually dug till coal seams are found in the age-old practice in Meghalaya what is also known as rat-hole mining. Once the seams are found, coal is taken out through small holes along the horizontal line of the coal seams.