Rescuers on Wednesday recovered the body of one of the five miners trapped inside an illegal coal mine in Meghalaya’s East Jaintia Hills district since May 30, The Hindu reported.
The miners got trapped after a dynamite explosion in the coal mine. Meghalaya’s Disaster Response Force, the police, the Indian Navy and the National Disaster Response Force have been engaged in rescue operations.
Ethelbert Kharmalki, the deputy commissioner of East Jaintia Hills, told the newspaper that the miner’s body was found with the help of a submersible robotic device belonging to the Navy. After that, the body was sent for an autopsy.
Officials said that electronic device was able to locate only two objects inside the mine on Wednesday, one of which was the first miner’s body.
The second object is also suspected to be the body of one of the trapped miners. Rescuers had to call off the operation to retrieve it because of poor visibility. The water levels in the 152-meter-deep pit rose because of heavy rainfall overnight.
“They [the rescuers] are expected to resume the retrieval of the second suspected body on Thursday when the visibility underwater improves,” Kharmalki told PTI.
On June 3, the police had arrested the owner of the coal mine, Shining Langstang, but were still looking for the manager.
Rat-hole coal mining, considered to be hazardous, is not permitted in Meghalaya. The National Green Tribunal’s had banned it in 2014. Workers dig a deep vertical shaft till coal seams are found in the mine. Coal is then taken out through small holes along the horizontal line of the seams.
However, illegal mining continues to take place in Meghalaya. In January, at least six workers were killed in an accident when they were working in a coal mine in East Jaintia Hills district. They had fallen to a depth of 150 feet after the machine they were using to dig a tunnel broke.
In 2018, 15 miners got trapped in a mine after it got flooded near the Lytein river in East Jaintia Hills. 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.