Rescuers on Friday recovered the third body from an illegal coal mine in Meghalaya’s East Jaintia Hills district, PTI reported. Five miners had got trapped in the mine on May 30 after a dynamite explosion.
The body was retrieved from the flooded mine by divers of the Indian Navy, East Jaintia Hills Commissioner E Kharmalki told the news agency. Rescuers had recovered the first body from the mine on June 16 and the second on June 24.
The body was sent for a post-mortem analysis to the civil hospital in Khliehriat, the headquarters of East Jaintia Hills district, according to The Hindu.
“We have informed the relatives of the victims from Cachar, Barpeta and Kamrup districts in Assam and North Tripura district through their respective Superintendent of Police to identify the retrieved bodies,” the district’s commissioner told the newspaper.
Meghalaya’s Disaster Response Force, the police, the Indian Navy and the National Disaster Response Force have been engaged in rescue operations at the site.
Rescuers have been facing difficulties due to heavy rain in the area, because of which interconnected mines are filling up with water, The Hindu reported.
After retrieving the third body on Friday, they began draining out water from two shafts interconnected at the coal seams, an unidentified official at the site told PTI.
Rat-hole coal mining, considered to be hazardous, is not permitted in Meghalaya. 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. The National Green Tribunal had banned it in 2014.
Despite this, illegal mining continues to take place in the state. On June 3, the police had arrested the owner of the coal mine, Shining Langstang, but were still looking for the manager.
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.