The Meghalaya government has ordered for a magisterial inquiry into the mining accident where at least five labourers are trapped for the last four days inside an illegal coal mine that was flooded after a dynamite explosion in Meghalaya’s East Jaintia Hills District.
Heavy rainfall on Tuesday hampered the operations to rescue the five miners trapped inside the ‘rat-hole’ coal pit. With hooks, ropes, and a crane, attempts are being made to fish out the miners to safety, from the bottom of the pit, but the efforts have been in vain so far.
“We have constituted a magisterial inquiry into the matter and the report is awaited. Search and rescue operation teams from the State Disaster Response Force (SDRF), fire brigade and police are presently stationed at the coal mine which is located under Umpleng AD Camp in Sutnga. However, they cannot do anything but wait since the water level is high due to heavy rain. They will take a call on what needs to be done and what is the next step,” said Home Minister Lahkmen Rymbui.
The district administration has identified three of the miners – Abdul Karim and Abdul Kalam from Assam’s Boko and Barpeta, respectively and Shyamcharan Debbarma from Tripura. The two unidentified persons are said to be from Silchar in Assam.
Based on information received from the Superintendent of Police, Silchar, the mine workers have been trapped in the coal mine since May 30. The workers got trapped in the sudden flow of water into the mine after a sudden explosion, he said, quoting eyewitness accounts.
Meanwhile, the opposition Congress has demanded the immediate setting up of an independent inquiry to end the coal racket in the state.
“There must be an immediate independent inquiry to go into the details of the illegalities that are going on in the state specifically for each district as it cannot be (one inquiry) for the whole state,” said Dr Mukul Sangma, Leader of the Opposition in Meghalaya.
In January this year, six people from Assam’s Karimganj district had been killed while working inside a coal mine in East Jaintia Hills district.
In 2018, East Jaintia Hills, infamous for its illegal ‘rat hole’ coal mines, made headlines when 15 migrant miners from Assam had died inside in an abandoned coal mine.