Rescue teams on Wednesday retrieved the body of a second miner from the main shaft of a flooded coal mine in Meghalaya’s East Jaintia Hills district, Hindustan Times reported. At least 15 miners were trapped in the illegal mine on December 13, and five bodies have been discovered so far.

Santosh Kumar, National Disaster Response Force’s assistant commandant who is overseeing the rescue operations, said the body was intact but highly decomposed and beyond recognition. “That’s why we immediately handed it over to the district administration for further procedures.” The body was sent to the civil hospital in Khliehriat for a postmortem examination.

“The first one was retrieved but the second body slipped the claws of the underwater remotely operated vehicle,” Kumar said. “Then a third body was spotted last Sunday and another the following day but they could not be retrieved. The one retrieved today is the fifth body.” The body discovered on Monday was “excessively decomposed”.

Kumar said four NDRF personnel and a Navy diver entered the main shaft around 1 pm on Wednesday and located the body at about 200 feet inside the rat hole mine with the help of the remotely operated underwater vehicle. “Despite the inclement weather all rescue teams are working continuously to try and retrieve another body as well as try to locate more,” Kumar said.

An unidentified rescue official told IANS that efforts are under way to retrieve the two bodies found on Sunday and Monday.

The group of miners got trapped after river water entered the illegal rat hole mine in East Jaintia Hills district. The Supreme Court had last month told the Centre and the state government to continue rescue operations, even though the state told the bench that the trapped miners may have died.

Multiple government agencies, including the National Disaster Response Force and the Indian Army, are involved in the rescue operations.