NEW DELHI/SHILLONG: Thirty-four days since at least 15 miners got trapped inside an illegal rat-hole coalmine in Meghalaya due to flooding, Indian Navy divers detected the body of a victim by using a sophisticated camera on Wednesday.
“One body detected by Indian Navy divers using underwater ROV at a depth of approx 60 feet and 210 feet inside a rat-hole mine,” a naval spokesperson tweeted.
Government officials in the state have remained tight-lipped though despite news about the detection of the body doing the rounds since Wednesday evening. It was learnt that efforts were being made to retrieve the body at the earliest.
The Meghalaya Cabinet on Wednesday discussed the ongoing rescue operations to trace the 15 miners, who are trapped inside an illegal flooded coal mine for more than a month now.
#MeghalayaMineTragedy #Flash One body detected by Indian Navy Divers using Underwater ROV at a depth of approx 60 feet and 210 feet inside a rat-hole mine @SpokespersonMoD @DefenceMinIndia @nsitharaman @PMOIndia pic.twitter.com/sP1sv6ikRn— SpokespersonNavy (@indiannavy) January 17, 2019
Chief Minister Conrad Sangma, who also handles the mining and geology department, and Home Minister James Sangma apprised the Cabinet about the latest rescue situation at Ksan village in State's East Jaintia Hills district.
Deputy Chief Minister Prestone Tynosng on the possibility of calling off the rescue operation said, "Till this moment the experts are still on the job. Until and unless we get their views, we cannot say anything. Once that is done, then we will accordingly file an affidavit in the Supreme Court."
The Supreme Court-monitored rescue operation is aimed at taking out the trapped miners "dead or alive".
On the expenditure incurred in the rescue operation, the Deputy Chief Minister said, "We are yet to know the details. This has been handled by the district administration."
Meanwhile, the Coal India Limited has informed the district administration that the water level at the main shaft, where the 15 miners are trapped, and the abandoned shafts remained the same despite several million gallons of water being pumped out.
The Indian Navy lowered the underwater remotely operated vehicle at the main shaft, but failed to capture any of the trapped miners.
The mine tragedy occurred on December 13 last year when the 15 miners had gone down 380-ft into the coal pit. Five others had managed to survive. One Saheb Ali, who is among the survivors, claimed 22 miners, not 20, had entered the mine that day.
Multiple agencies such as National Disaster Response Force, Coal India Limited, Kirloskar Brothers Limited, Odisha Fire Service besides the Navy have been engaged for a month in the rescue operation.
(With IANS inputs)