Search and rescue operations for the 13 people trapped in “rat hole” coal mine in Meghalaya’s East Jaintia Hills district were on since last two days, but the extensive efforts of SDRF and NDRF teams met with little success due to heavy flooding. Over hundreds of the State Disaster Response Force (SDRF) and the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) were pumping the water out of the flooded trench to rescue people from 320-feet deep mine.
The rescuers and divers of the disaster relief force searched the muddy waters but met with no success as poor visibility inside the mine hampered their efforts. There was no map of the rat-hole mine was available as it was dug by villagers to pull out the coal illegally.
Although the rat-hole mines are common in the mineral-rich state, the narrow and horizontal seams make them very dangerous to pull out coal from. East Jaintia Hills police said that the mine was old and abandoned and illegal mining had resumed a week ago.
"The focus is on the rescue operations in the area. We are concerned about them. The NDRF and the police are leading the operation. We admit that illegal mining was going on. We will take action. This is not acceptable," Meghalaya Chief Minister Conrad Sangma was quoted as saying by NDTV.
In 2014, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) banned coal mining in Meghalaya after protests by environmental activists as it was contributing in polluting groundwater. However, the mining was still on to illegally extract coal using the dangerous rat-hole mine.
Around six years ago in 2012, at least 15 people were killed after they were trapped inside a similar rat-hole mine. The bodies of the miners could not be recovered.