Five days since 13 miners were reportedly trapped in a rat-hole coal mine in Meghalaya’s East Jaintia Hills district, all efforts to locate them have turned futile.
The miners were now feared dead as water from a nearby river has been gushing into the 370-feet-deep pit.
One person, identified as Krip Chullet, has been arrested so far pertaining to the case. Chullet was allegedly involved in hiring labourers, overseeing the work and sending them down the shaft.
A senior district official, who is supervising the operation, said that authorities have drawn a blank over the past five days in their attempt to pump out water from the mine.
“There is no sign of dip in water level even after putting three pumps into service. We have not been able to trace any victim as yet,” he said.
Over 100 personnel of the National Disaster Response Force and the State Disaster Response Force, along with police teams, are waiting for the water level to subside to begin rescue operations, the official said.
According to an expert in water resources management, over 5 lakh litres of water, reaching up to 70 feet, is estimated to be present in the main shaft of the mine.
“It seems water from the nearby Ltein river is refilling the mine even as the pumps are in operation,” he said.
The survival of the trapped miners depends on the oxygen supply, water level and the temperature inside, a doctor of a reputed hospital in Shillong said.
“A person can survive without food for seven days depending on the reserves he has in his body. The oxygen supply inside the mine also determines the time period for which they could survive,” he said.
Meanwhile, Congress MLA Azad Zaman, who visited the site on Sunday, claimed that one of the trapped miners was his relative.
The legislator had also said that he would call on Chief Minister Conrad Sangma later in the day to discuss the prevalence of illegal coal mining in the state.
In 2014, the National Green Tribunal had imposed a ban in Meghalaya on rat-hole coal mining -- a technique that entails digging small vertical pits to reach the mineral.