Body of one of the trapped workers retrieved from Meghalaya mine

Shillong, June 16 (IANS) The body of one of the five trapped miners was retrieved from a flooded coal pit in Meghalaya’s East Jaintia Hills on Wednesday, 18 days after they were trapped, officials said.State Disaster Management Authority Executive Director Ibashisha Mawlong said that the first body was retrieved from the 152 metre deep pit by Navy and National Disaster Response Force divers. “The rescuers have spotted three of the five bodies deep inside the bottom of the mine. Their efforts to recover all the five bodies are continuing,” Mawlong told IANS over phone. She said that the high water level in the coal mine hindered the rescue operations. Mawlong, who is also Meghalaya’s Joint Secretary, Revenue and Disaster Management, said that rescue operations involving the NDRF are going on since the five workers got trapped inside the coal mine on May 30.”A 13-member Indian Navy team also joined the rescue operation on Sunday with remotely operated vehicles (ROV) and other equipment,” she said.According to fire service officials, the vertical depth of water inside the pit is nearly 152 feet. Other rescuers said the depth of the rat hole mine would be more than 500 feet.Following the accident at the mine at Umpleng Elaka Sutnga, East Jaintia Hills Superintendent of Police, Jagpal Singh Dhanoa, had said these workers got trapped due the sudden rush of water inside the mine after the dynamite blast used to split the coal pit and within no time, the mine was inundated.Of the five miners, four were from Assam while one is from Tripura. Six co-workers managed to save themselves as they were on the outer side of the mine then and have returned to their homes in Assam.Police arrested mine owner, Shining Langstang, and charged him with violation of the National Green Tribunal (NGT) order banning unscientific mining and transportation of coal. The ‘Sordar’ (mine manager and head of the workers) is on the run and a lookout notice has been issued since he had brought the workers from Assam and Tripura to work in the illegal mine.At least six people, who hailed from Assam’s Karimganj district, were killed when they were working inside a coal mine in East Jaintia Hills on January 21 this year. The latest incident on May 30 is a grim reminder of the December 2018 tragedy in the same district when 15 migrant miners from Assam died inside in an abandoned coal mine. The 15 miners had been stuck in the coal mine at a depth of nearly 370 feet after a tunnel was flooded with water from the nearby Lytein river. Even their bodies could not be retrieved. In April 2014, the NGT had banned the indiscriminate and hazardous rat hole coal mining in Meghalaya. But mining continued illegally with the authorities turning a blind eye, allege environmental activists in Meghalaya and Assam.–IANSsc/vd

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