Five labourers – four from Assam and one from Tripura – have been trapped inside a coal mine since May 30 in East Jaintia hills district in Meghalaya, the police said on Monday.

After being informed about the incident, the district police found the location where the miners were trapped on Monday at 6 am. The authorities attributed the delay to “inclement weather, poor night light condition and non-availability of any eye witness account”.

However, considering the delay, Shillong Times reported that the miners may have died.

“As per eye witness(es) account due to the sudden explosion of dynamite, 5 (five) persons got trapped in the sudden rush of water into the mine,” the police statement read. “Within no time, the mine was inundated.”

The victims are Abdul Karim from Boko, Abdul Kalam from Barpeta and two more unidentified miners from Assam. The fifth person was identified as Shyamcharan Debbarma from Tripura.

The police identified an individual named Nizam Ali as the primary accused, who they said “did nothing to rescue the trapped labourers” and instead threatened those who survived.

A first information report was registered at Khliehriat police station under the Disaster Management Act. One person was detained for questioning.

Meghalaya Home Minister Lahkmen Rymbui said the detained person was the former owner of the mine, K Chyrmang. “The police are trying their best to locate the ‘Sordar [owner]’, who is on the run,” Rymbui told the Shillong Times. “We will be able to get the details only after Chyrmang and the Sordar are interrogated.”

The police said that the survivors were being looked after “to ensure their security”. “Further, investigation is on and no stone is being left unturned to arrest...”

East Jaintia Hills Superintendent of Police Jagpal Singh Dhanoa said that a team of the state disaster had also reached the location for the rescue operation.

In January, six workers were killed in an accident when they were working in a coal mine in Meghalaya’s East Jaintia Hills district.

In December 2018, 15 miners got trapped in a mine after it got flooded near the Lytein river in the East Jaintia Hills district. About 200 personnel from the Navy, National Disaster Response Force, Coal India, and Kirloskar Brothers Limited took part in the rescue effort. However, only two bodies could be recovered till July 2019 when the Supreme Court allowed the state government to call off the rescue operation.