Seventeen miners are feared dead after being trapped in a coal mine caved in at the government controlled Singareni Collieries in Godavarikhani in Andhra Pradesh on Monday.
The incident came to light when the morning workers inside the mine did not come up for lunch.
The workmen had gone into the underground mine named GDK 7 LEP (Godavarikhani 7 Life Extension Project mine), located 110 metres deep, and they were extracting coal when the mishap occurred at around 1340 IST.
While 20 to 30 miners, who were working in the mine above the level of 7 LEP, escaped, 17 miners remained trapped in the dip.
The collieries officials immediately rushed mine rescue teams to the site. Top officials, including Chairman and Managing Director R H Khwaja and other directors rushed to Godavarikhani to oversee the rescue operations.
Mine rescue teams have already started dewatering the inundated mine.
Singareni Collieries Executive Director T R K Rao told rediff.com that the entire process of dewatering the mine would take at least 10 hours. "We have not found any body so far, even as we have begun pumping out the water from the mine. We have to pump out half a million gallons of water before we could know the fate of the trapped miners and retrieve them," he added.
Terming the accident as a rare occurrence in the 113-year-old history of the mining company, Rao said this particular mine had not witnessed a serious mishap since it was operationalised in 1993.
Officials of Directorate of Mines Safety will conduct a statutory inquiry into the incident.
The Singareni Collieries, jointly owned by Government of India and the Andhra Pradesh government, has its mining operations in four districts-Karimnagar, Warangal, Adilabad and Khammam.
At present, it has 67 working mines, 55 underground and 12 open cast mines, with a total workforce of 99,000. The daily coal production works out to 80,000 tonnes.