Meghalaya: Operation to rescue trapped miners temporarily suspended
Shillong, Dec 24: Authorities in Meghalaya's East Jaintia Hills district on Monday temporarily suspended operations to rescue 15 miners trapped in a 370-foot-deep illegal coal mine in Ksan area of Lumthari village since December 13.
The exercise will resume once more powerful pumps are made available to district authorities, district Deputy Commissioner, F M Dopth, told PTI.
The miners were trapped in the illegal pit after water from nearby Lytein River gushed into the mine. About 20 miners on December 13 entered the quarry owned by Krip Chullet. After reaching the bottom of the pit, they entered horizontal manholes, often termed as 'rat-holes', as each just about fits one person. Five persons were able to climb out of the flooded mine, leaving the others behind.
"We have temporarily suspended pumping of water out of the mine as the exercise did not yield any positive result. The water level has not subsided," Dopth said.
NDRF assistant commandant S K Singh said the current water level in the mine shaft is about 70 feet. About 100 personnel of the national and state disaster response forces, along with the police, are waiting for the water to recede about 30 feet as divers can do their job once the water level subsides up to that level, Superintendent of Police, Sylvester Nongtynger, said.
According to locals, one of the diggers could have accidentally punctured the walls of the cave following which the river water gushed into it on December 13. Chief Minister Conrad K Sangma had written to Coal India seeking transportation of their high powered pumps to the mine to help drain the water out. Various exercises were also conducted by different government departments in line with the recommendation of ace mining mishap expert, Jaswant Singh Gill, who had visited the site last week.
The state government had on December 22 announced Rs 1 lakh interim relief to the family members of each of the 15 miners. Meanwhile, the Opposition Congress has criticized the state government for its "failure" to rescue the trapped miners.
"If the government of Thailand can launch an operation involving international search and rescue teams (to rescue the 13 trapped footballers), this government is not serious at all in rescuing trapped miners," Congress spokesperson H M Shangpliang said.
Except for MLA of Rajabala constituency, Azad Aman, who visited the site eight days ago, none of the ministers and not even the disaster management minister visited the accident site, Shangpliang said. Seven of the 15 trapped victims hail from two villages in Aman's constituency in West Garo Hills district. The Congress leader also lambasted the state government for allegedly promoting illegal mining of coal in East Jaintia Hills district and elsewhere in the state.
"Since they (NPP, BJP, regional allies) could not fulfil the promise they made to voters about lifting the NGT ban on coal mining within six months of coming to power, they are promoting illegal mining, Shangpliang said. The Meghalaya Democratic Alliance was formed early this year replacing the Congress, which had ruled the state for almost 10 years. The MDA government led by Conrad K Sangma of the National Peoples Party, has the support of the BJP, NCP and regional parties, including the United Democratic Party, People Democratic Front, Hills State Peoples Democratic Party and Independents.
The National Green Tribunal has banned unscientific mining of coal using small horizontal holes along the coal seams since 2014. Transportation of already extracted coal is intermittently allowed for exporting the mineral to Assam and Bangladesh. The NGT had first allowed transportation in 2015 and recently the Supreme Court had allowed transportation of already extracted coal till January 31.