A sophisticated machine deployed by the Indian Navy to explore the flooded shaft of a coal mine in Meghalayas East Jaintia Hills district where five miners remain trapped for over two weeks Tuesday detected two suspicious objects at the bottom of the 152-metre deep pit, an official said. District deputy commissioner E Kharmalki told PTI, “We are analysing the footage taken by the ROV (remotely operated vehicle) to verify if the objects are indeed human bodies.”
Though the rescuers have not been able to pull out the objects, a quick analysis of the video footage taken by the ROV suggests that it could be human bodies, he said.
“As of now the rescuers will be analysing the videos and by tomorrow when the visibility of the water at the bottom of the pit improves, the Navy will deploy the ROV again,” Kharmalki said.
The water inside the shaft was murky on Tuesday hampering visibility.
Besides the Indian Navy, about 60 rescuers belonging to the NDRF, the SDRF and the Fire Service personnel are camping at the site for carrying out dewatering exercise, a magistrate at the site told PTI.
Water could not pumped out on Tuesday as the Navy was exploring the flooded shaft using the ROV, the magistrate said.
Because of rainfall on Monday night, the water level in the pit has risen by about 1 metre, he said.
The water level at the mine was recorded to be 33 metres deep on Monday and the rescuers had managed to dive up to a depth of 15 metres inside the flooded mine, the official had said.
By using an ROV, a team of the Indian Navy had been able to locate three bodies weeks after the shaft of another mine at Lumthari in the same district was filled with water from a river on December 13, 2018.
The ROV was sent down the flooded rat-hole coal mine to determine visibility inside it.
At the Umpleng coal mine accident on May 30, at least five people have been identified by the district administration – four from Assam and one from Tripura- who got stuck somewhere inside the rat-hole mine after it was flooded following a dynamite explosion on May 30.
The mine is located about 20 km from Khliehriat, the headquarters of East Jaintia Hills district.
Hazardous rat-hole coal mining is not permitted in Meghalaya after the National Green Tribunal (NGT) banned it in 2014.
A deep vertical shaft is dug till coal seams are found in the rat-hole mining. Once the seams are found, coal is taken out through small holes along the horizontal line of the coal seams.
Six co-workers of the trapped miners escaped the tragedy as they were outside the mine at the time of the incident and they have been escorted to their homes in Assam.
The police arrested the owner of the coal mine, Shining Langstang, and charged him with violation of the NGT order banning unscientific mining and transportation of coal.
The ”Sordar” (mine manager) is on the run and a lookout notice has been issued since he was the one who brought migrant workers from Assam and Tripura to work in the illegal mine, a senior police officer said.
An FIR was registered based on account of the survivors. PTI