Water level in Meghalaya coal mine recedes by 22 feet

Shillong: The Indian Navy, which was able to pull out three bodies from a flooded mine in Meghalaya using a sophisticated machine in 2019, on Sunday joined operations to rescue five miners trapped for 14 days in another such illegal coal mine in the state, an official said.

The water level in the mine at Umpleng in East Jaintia Hills district, which was decreasing for the past few days due to dewatering exercise, has gone up again following rain affecting rescue operation.

Armed with remotely operated vehicles (ROV) and handheld sonar, the team of Navy personnel arrived at Khliehriat, the district headquarters, on Saturday night and have built camps at the accident site.

During the day, the Navy personnel completed an exercise to ascertain the depth of the water level inside the mine, district deputy commissioner E Kharmalki said.

The Indian Navy personnel will use their ROV on Monday to explore the depth of the cave, the official said.

Around 60 personnel of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) and various state agencies are waiting for the water level to come down to about 10 meters in the 152-metre deep pit, as that is the maximum level in which they can work.

Using the ROV, a team of the Indian Navy personnel had managed to locate three bodies weeks after the shaft of another mine at Lumthari in the same district was filled with water from a river on December 13, 2018.

The unmanned ROV was sent down the flooded rat-hole coal mine to determine visibility inside it.

At least five people have been identified by the district administration – four from Assam and one from Tripura- who got stuck somewhere inside the rat-hole mine at Umpleng, about 20 km from Khliehriat, after it was flooded following a dynamite explosion on May 30.

Hazardous rat-hole coal mining is not permitted in Meghalaya after the National Green Tribunal (NGT) banned it in 2014.

A deep vertical shaft is dug till coal seams are found in the rat-hole mining. Once the seams are found, coal is taken out through small holes along the horizontal line of the coal seams.

Also read: Meghalaya: Lockdown in East Khasi Hills extended again

Six co-workers of the trapped miners escaped the tragedy as they were outside the mine at the time of the incident and they have been escorted to their homes in Assam.

The police arrested the owner of the coal mine, Shining Langstang, and charged him with violation of the NGT order banning unscientific mining and transportation of coal.

The ‘Sordar’ (mine manager) is on the run and a lookout notice has been issued since he was the one who brought migrant workers from Assam and Tripura to work in the illegal mine, a senior police officer said.

Based on the account of the survivors, an FIR was registered.

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