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Rescue operations for 15 trapped in 370-foot-deep Meghalaya mine since 12 days put on hold

Seven of the 15 trapped victims hail from two villages in Aman's constituency in West Garo Hills district.

Rescue operations for 15 trapped in 370-foot-deep Meghalaya mine since 12 days put on hold

SHILLONG: It's been 12 days since 15 miners have been trapped in a 370-foot-deep illegal coal mine in Ksan area of Lumthari village in Meghalaya. The authorities have been putting in all efforts to rescue the trapped people. However on Monday, they had to temporarily suspend the rescue operations owing to the need for more powerful pumps for the exercise.

"We have temporarily suspended pumping of water out of the mine as the exercise did not yield any positive result. The water level has not subsided," district Deputy Commissioner FM Dopth said.

Seven of the 15 trapped victims hail from two villages in Aman's constituency in West Garo Hills district.

The miners were trapped in the illegal pit after water from nearby Lytein River gushed into the mine. About 20 miners on December 13 entered the quarry owned by Krip Chullet. After reaching the bottom of the pit, they entered horizontal manholes, often termed as 'rat-holes', as each just about fits one person. Five persons were able to climb out of the flooded mine, leaving the others behind.

Nearly 100 personnel of the national and state disaster response forces, along with the police, are waiting for the water to recede about 30 feet as divers can do their job once the water level subsides up to that level. Currently the water level in the mine shaft is about 70 feet. 

Locals are fearing that a digger may have accidentally punctured the walls of the cave following which the river water would have gushed into it on December 13.

Chief Minister Conrad K Sangma had written to Coal India seeking transportation of their high powered pumps to the mine to help drain the water out. The state government on December 22 had announced Rs 1 lakh interim relief to the family members of each of the 15 miners.

Meanwhile, the Opposition Congress has criticized the state government for its "failure" to rescue the trapped miners. "If the government of Thailand can launch an operation involving international search and rescue teams (to rescue the 13 trapped footballers), this government is not serious at all in rescuing trapped miners," Congress spokesperson HM Shangpliang said.

The National Green Tribunal has banned unscientific mining of coal using small horizontal holes along the coal seams since 2014. Transportation of already extracted coal is intermittently allowed for exporting the mineral to Assam and Bangladesh.

The NGT had first allowed transportation in 2015 and recently the Supreme Court had allowed transportation of already extracted coal till January 31.