Guwahati: Efforts are on to rescue the 13 labourers, now feared dead, who were trapped inside an illegal coal mine after water from a nearby stream flooded the area in the Sapung area of East Jaintia Hills in Meghalaya on Thursday.
The 13 labourers, four of whom were from Assam and the rest from Meghalaya, were allegedly engaged in the rat-hole mining before tragedy struck on Thursday.
Rat-hole mining is considered an unscientific method of extracting coal by digging a deep and narrow tunnel inside the earth.
"The said coal mine is old and was not used for a long time. Water from a nearby stream might have flowed into the mine leading to the tragedy. A case has been registered against the owner of the mine," East Jaintia Hills SP Sylvester Nongtner told EastMojo over phone.
As per Nongtner, rescue operations were started on Thursday night itself. Around 70 personnel of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) and 20 of the State Disaster Respnse Force are currently involved in the search operaton.
Meanwhile, SK Shastri, commandant of NDRF, who is leading the rescue efforts, told EastMojo: "Identifying the exact source of water has turned to be a major obstacle. There is no way to reduce the water level of the mine. Water levels have gone up to 60-70 feet."
NDRF personnel have the expertise to swim up to a depth of 40 feet, said Shastri. "We have asked for more pumps from the district administration to suck out the water," he added.
The exact number of labourers is still yet known. As per reports, some survivors, who were also miners involved in the illegal act, ran away from the spot fearing police action.