NEW DELHI: Navy divers have found some skeletons in the flooded rat-hole coal mine in Meghalaya's East Jaintia Hills district, weeks after a multi-agency search operation was launched to rescue 15 trapped miners, officials and sources said Thursday.
On Wednesday, Navy Spokesperson Capt D K Sharma said in New Delhi that the divers detected a body of a miner using a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) at a depth of approximately 160 feet and 210 feet inside the rat hole mine.
The body, which is yet to be identified, has been pulled upto the 'mouth' of the mine and is being retrieved under the supervision of a team of doctors, he said.
The 15 miners were trapped in an illegal rat-hole coal mine in Lumthari village of East Jaintia Hills district since December 13 after water from a nearby river gushed in.
Sources said the Navy divers on Thursday also spotted through the ROV a number of skeletons inside one of the rat-hole mines and are waiting for the state administration's directive on the future course of action.
They said it was not clear if the skeletons seen through high-resolution cameras on board the ROV were of the missing miners. The Navy Spokesperson said the body will be taken out of the mine under the supervision of doctors.
"Our divers are trying by hit and trial in uncharted mines. We've established that the miners were in the area. It has been a very complicated operation. We will continue our operation," said Capt Sharma said.
On skeletons being seen by the Navy team, the sources said the water inside the mines has high Sulphur content which can decompose the bodies very fast.
"Skeletons were seen by the ROV. We do not know whether the skeletons are of the trapped miners. Forensics experts are expected to tell the rescuers about the next step," said a source.
The 15 miners had gone for mining on December 13. They were trapped after water from a nearby river flooded the rat-hole mine.
Days later, several agencies including the Navy, NDRF, Air Force, National Disaster Response Force, Odisha fire service were deployed to rescue the miners.
The Navy divers had joined the search operation on December 30. The rescuers were struggling to pump out water from the mines.
The Supreme Court on January 3 expressed strong dissatisfaction over the rescue efforts to trace the trapped miners and told the state government to bring them out dead or alive.
In the Khloo-Ryngksan area, where the ill-fated mine is located on the western side of a small hillock, the Lytein river crisscrosses the valley for over 2 km.
Deputy Commissioner of East Jaintia Hills F M Dopth said the area has at least 80-100 flooded and abandoned mines.