Amid heart-rending scenes, relatives of the missing persons in coal dump mishap here returned home with a heavy heart after rescuers on Monday unsuccessfully rummaged through the mishap site at the coal over burden dump of Mahanadi Coalfields Ltd (MCL).
A teenager Manbodh Majhi was one among them waiting at the site on Monday. His younger sister Mamata (18) is still missing while mother Gurubari was dug out dead earlier. His elder sister Manju (21) was lucky to escape narrowly. Every time the excavators cleared the lumps of coal and mud, he went close to look for Mamata’s body. The rescue operation continued till 7 pm.
Ignoring threat to life, hundreds of poor people risk their lives to eke out living from coal dumps of MCL in Hemgir block and iron dump yards of Rourkela Steel Plant (RSP) here. On different occasions, many persons have paid with their lives while digging the base of the dumps to collect remnant coal and scrap iron. Over the past years, eight persons were buried alive at the dump yards of RSP.
Hemgir block chairman Upendra Bhoi said villagers including school dropouts search for coal at the Kulda open cast project of Balinga gram panchayat. After a day’s hard work, each of them manages to earn between `150 and `200. They have no other means of livelihood. Similar is the scene at Tikilipara over burden coal dump of MCL’s Basundhara mines.
Baling Sarpanch Pdmini Majhi said around 40 of them are affected by the MCL project as they were not rehabilitated in absence of land records.
In the past, Sundargarh administration and police unsuccessfully tried to close the coal and iron dumping yards but bowed out under protests. In fact, sources alleged that coal and scrap iron traders manage the show from behind.
A senior police officer, on condition of anonymity, said both the MCL and RSP have failed to prevent trespassing at the dumping yards despite deploying security guards. As far as MCL is concerned, the mines safety norms are flouted with impunity, he said. Meanwhile, Rourkela-based IGP (WR) RK Sharma said the death toll is pegged at 10, but rescue operations would continue.
Hemgir IIC Banita Majhi said the list of identified missing persons includes one male and two females. BJP national president Jual Oram demanded arrest of top MCL authorities and compensation of `50 lakh for each of the bereaved families.
On Saturday morning, nine persons were buried alive following the landslide at the active coal over burden dump. The landslide occurred at around 9 am at the dump measuring 15 to 20 metres along the Kulda open cast project of MCL when villagers of nearby areas were salvaging remnant coal from the restricted zone.