At least four persons died and many are feared trapped as three abandoned coal mines collapsed during illegal mining in Jharkhand's Dhanbad district, officials said on Tuesday.
Prem Kumar Tiwari, the sub-divisional magistrate (SDM) of Dhanbad, said the rescue team, employed by the coal companies, recovered three bodies of women and one of a girl from Gopinathpur Open Cast Project (OCP) of Eastern Coalfield Limited (ECL) in Nirsa police station area.
Tiwari, who is monitoring the rescue operation, said "search for the others who might have been trapped" is underway.
Two other quarries that caved in Kapasara, also of ECL, and Chach Victoriya of Bharat Coking Coal Limited (BCCL) are also feared to have buried miners.
Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren said in a tweet, "Some casualties have been reported from the coal mine located in Nirsa, Dhanbad. The district administration is actively engaged in rescue and relief work. May God grant peace to the departed souls and give strength to the family to bear this difficult time of grief. Help is being provided to the injured."
Kapasara outsourcing project was the first to have collapsed around 5 pm on Monday, officials said.
That was followed by Chach Victoriya of Bharat Coking Coal Limited (BCCL) late on Monday, while the third incident happened on Tuesday morning at the Gopinathpur open cast mine.
Rescue operations with heavy machinery are underway at the three mines, the officials said.
Only the coal companies can specify the number of people trapped inside, said Superintendent of Police (Dhanbad-Rural) Reeshma Ramesan.
"I can't say much about the number of casualties and injured. We are verifying the details and would be able to give information only after getting reports. Our teams have rushed there," she added.
The officials said that families of the illegal miners are yet to report to the authorities, fearing police action.
Locals had managed to rescue some of the miners before the colliery officials or the police reached the spot, they said.
An ECL official stated that the incidents have occurred at its abandoned mines and so the matter came under the purview of the district administration.
"There is no such information (of collapse) in our working mines. The collapse might have happened due to illegal activities in the abandoned mines," he said.
"We are not in a position to tell about the number of villagers trapped," he added.
Several slippers were found at the entry point of the mines, indicating many had ventured inside.
The BCCL said that it will share the details later.
In Chach Victoriya mine of BCCL, three persons are feared trapped under the debris, official sources said.