Meghalaya miners rescue: NDRF indicates 15 trapped miners may be dead, operations continue on Day 15

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New Delhi | Published: December 27, 2018 10:56:24 AM

Despite being banned by the National Green Tribunal in 2014, the ‘rat-hole’ technique is a prevalent practice in Meghalaya. It involves digging of very small tunnels, usually only 3-4 feet high, through which workers enter and extract coal.

The workers were trapped in the ‘rat-hole’ mine on December 13, after water from the nearby Lytein river gushed into it. (Source: Indian Express)

Fifteen men will likely die in a dark, wet mine in Meghalaya that flooded and collapsed in the state’s Jaintia Hills on December 13, leaving 15 people trapped. On Wednesday, the National Disaster Response Force divers, who have been carrying out the search operations, reported a foul odour, indicating that the miners could be dead and their bodies are beginning to decompose.

Losing Lives Due to Lack of Equipment?

The NDRF asked the district administration for at least ten 100-HP pumps. The request has been forwarded to the state government, but no action has been taken so far. The NDRF has 70 personnel while the State Disaster Response Force has 22 at the spot. In the last 14 days, only three helmets have been recovered. According to rescue officials, no clue has been found either on the status of the trapped miners or their location. After two weeks of trying to save the trapped miners, the NDRF and district authorities suspended the rescue operation, stopping the pumps purging the water from the mines.

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Rat-hole mining

Despite being banned by the National Green Tribunal in 2014, the rat-hole technique is a prevalent practice in Meghalaya. It involves digging of very small tunnels, usually only 3-4 feet high, through which workers enter and extract coal. Earlier in 2016, six illegal miners died when a section of a closed mine collapsed in Burdwan district in West Bengal. The accident occurred when 200 illegal miners were extracting coal.

Political blame game

In the meantime, contesting Congress president Rahul Gandhi’s jibe on Prime Minister Narendra Modi over doing little to release trapped miners, the ruling NPP-BJP Government in Meghalaya on Wednesday said the state government is making efforts to rescue the miners. Meghalaya Chief Minister Conrad K Sangma said there is no inaction and that the administration and the NDRF had really worked hard to trace the miners.

In a sharp attack against Modi, the Congress chief said while trapped miners struggled for air, Modi strutted on Assam’s Bogibeel Bridge. The PM inaugurated the bridge on Brahmaputra river on Tuesday. Union Minister Kiren Rijiju asked Rahul not to do politics over the tragedy and blamed the previous Congress government in Meghalaya for the unsafe illegal mining activities in the state.

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