Navy divers join rescue operation in Meghalaya coal mine, Ksan tragedy replayed 

By Express News Service
GUWAHATI: The December 13, 2018 Ksan mine tragedy in Meghalaya is replayed as the personnel from multiple agencies try to rescue five miners who have remained trapped in a coal mine in the state’s East Jaintia Hills since May 30 and are feared dead.

A dynamite blast had caused flooding in the coal pit. The rescuers have not yet found any signs of the miners, suspected to be trapped in the smaller horizontal pits which are dug to extract coal.

The vertical coal pit has a depth of 500 ft and around 100 ft of it is still inundated. The excessive water, coupled with the rains every day, has made the task of the rescuers difficult.

A 10-member team of Navy divers joined the operation on Sunday. Over 50 personnel from National Disaster Response Force, State Disaster Response Force, District Disaster Response Force, Fire and Emergency Service and the police have been deployed at the site from before.

Official sources said the operation had been severely affected by incessant rains.

“We are using several pumps to drain out water but the coal pit gets filled up again by the rainwater,” East Jaintia Hills Superintendent of Police, Jagpal Singh Dhanoa told this newspaper.

The coal mine is inter-connected underground with another mine, located some 300 meters away, and this made the personnel to drain out water from both.

Dhanoa said only two families of the miners have contacted the administration so far. Four of the five miners are from Assam while one is from Tripura. High daily wage, which could be up to Rs 1,500, draws many labourers to the Meghalaya mines.

In the 2018 tragedy at Ksan, also in coal-rich East Jaintia Hills, at least 15 miners were trapped in a coal mine. While five managed to escape, only two decomposed bodies could be retrieved. 

The operation, suspended on March 2, 2019 after over 75 days, was one of the longest rescue efforts in the country. The Army and the Navy were among agencies which were engaged in the operation.

The National Green Tribunal had in 2014 banned rat-hole coal mining but it has continued unabated in Meghalaya. Ever since the ban, 144 cases of illegal coal mining and more than 1,500 cases of illegal transportation of coal have been registered in the state. Powerful people, including politicians, are allegedly involved in the illegal activities.