Fifteen miners are trapped inside a rat-hole coal mine near Nangalbibra area of South Garo Hills district in Meghalaya since Friday afternoon after water from an adjacent abandoned mine gushed in when the miners accidentally hit on the wall of the abandoned mine.
Meghalaya Director General of Police N. Ramachandran told The Hindu that there was very little hope of any survivor.
“There were total 30 miners working in the rat-hole mine. Fifteen managed to come out while 15 others got trapped inside. It is suspected that the miners accidentally punctured the wall of a flooded abandoned mine and huge quantity of water gushed inside the mine in which they were working.
For the last two days the district authorities have been trying to pump out the water. The mine operator did not inform either the police or the district authorities. We have registered a case under Section 304 (a) for negligent action and arrested the main operator of the mine,” he said.
Coal mining in most part of Meghalaya is done in an indiscriminate and unscientific manner of manual extraction and is popularly known as rat-hole mining as the miners crawl inside a long tunnel and use handy implements to burrow in and extract coal.
South Garo Hills Deputy Commissioner in-charge R.P. Marak said a magisterial probe has been ordered into the incident while efforts were on to rescue the trapped miners. The district authorities have also requisitioned the services of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) for rescue operations.
The 1st Battalion NDRF has sent two rescue teams which are expected to reach the site on Wednesday night. The DGP said that the mine was located in a remote location and condition of the road leading to the site is also bad. The coal mines are located at Rongsa Awe village, about 10 km from Nangalbibra.
These rat-hole mines are privately owned. In Meghalaya, land and resources are privately owned by local tribal communities and the State government has little control over it.