The families of four of the 15 miners trapped inside an illegal rat hole mine in Meghalaya since December 13 urged rescuers to retrieve a decomposed body spotted by divers so that they can perform its last rites, PTI reported on Saturday.

The Indian Navy early on Thursday had spotted a body inside the coal mine. Additional Chief Secretary PW Ingty said it was difficult for rescuers to examine the body as it could break into pieces while being brought up. The body was detected at a depth of around 210 feet and was pulled out to the “mouth of the rat hole mine”.

The brother of one of the miners trapped inside said they wanted his body. “Even if they manage to get a finger or a bone out of the shaft, it is fine for us,” said Manik Ali, whose 20-year-old brother Monirul Islam is among the 15 miners. “We will at least be able to bury the dead with some respect.”

Ali represents the families of three trapped miners from Assam’s Chirang district. After discovering the body, district authorities had called him and Aminul Uddin from Hojai district to see the video footage.

“The body is swollen,” said Aminul Uddin, who worked at the mine with his elder brother Kuti Miya. “The face cannot be seen, so we cannot make out who it is.”

East Jaintia Hills district Deputy Commissioner FM Dopth said, “It is difficult to retrieve the remains detected without disintegration as wanted by the family members and shown in the recorded video taken by the Navy’s ROV [remotely-operated vehicle].”

“The deputy commissioner is talking to the next of kin and trying to convince them that it is very difficult to retrieve the body,” said Ingty, who is overseeing the rescue operation.

However, both men informed the district administration they wanted the bodies to be retrieved even if it led to disintegration. “According to Quran, we have to bury the dead,” Ali said. “I can recognise if its my brother even if I get to see the ring on his finger.”

Aminul Uddin also appeared confident of being able to identify his brother. “I have lived with my brother all my life,” he said. “I will be able to recognise him.”