Operations to rescue 15 trapped miners from a private coal pit in South Garo Hills district of Meghalaya were on Friday officially called off after 14 hours of intense search failed to yield results and as the mission posed a threat to the rescuers.
"The National Disaster and Rescue Force (NDRF) have called off their mission to rescue any trapped miners and they have submitted a report citing that they found no trapped miners whose chances of survival are thin," District Deputy Commissioner R P Marak said.
A 31-member team of the Guwahati-based NDRF personnel called off their rescue mission after 14 hours of intense search and rescue operations by trained divers more than 100 meters underneath the earth's surface late Thursday night, Marak said.
The trained rescue personnel had descended into the mine on Thursday but failed to come across any of the trapped miners despite using state-of-the-art equipment.
Marak said the rescue mission had to be abandoned due to the fact that the walls of the tiny "rat-hole" mine from which coal was dug out, was on the verge of collapsing after water seeped in.
The district authorities had earlier ordered a judicial enquiry into the incident.
Three persons, the mine owner and a foreman of a clan and a head labourer, were arrested and booked for causing death due to negligence.
At least 15 miners were trapped since last Friday prompting the National Disaster and Rescue Force (NDRF) personnel to rush to the site in a 'late rescue' mission, Marak said.
Over 30 miners had gone down to the 100 metre pit at Nengkhol village in Nongalbibra area and accidentally punctured the wall of an abandoned mine full of highly acidic water on July 6 evening.
As the water from the abandoned mine rushed into the pit, 15 managed to escape while the rest were still inside.
Mineral-rich Meghalaya, at present, does not have a mining policy in place and as such coal and other minerals are being extracted by mine owners at their own risk without having any mechanism to check the welfare and safety of miners.
The villages located in the coal belt areas of the state are actually sitting on a network of trenches dug a hundred feet below the surface to excavate coal.