Shillong: The search operation launched to trace trapped miners in Meghalaya’s East Jaintia Hills district took a hit on Tuesday due to strong winds and heavy rain, police said.
The miners were reportedly trapped in the illegal coal pit on December 13 with district authorities making futile attempts to locate them over the past six days.
They are now feared dead as water from a nearby river has been gushing into the 370-feet-deep pit.
A top police officer said the exact number of miners trapped inside the pit is yet to be ascertained.
“With the identification of one more victim, the number of trapped miners rose to 14. As the mine operators did not maintain a log book, it is difficult to ascertain the exact figure,” superintendent of police (SP) S Nongtynger told PTI.
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.
The SP said that “incessant rainfall affected Tuesday’s operations as the approach road leading to the mine was not accessible”.
The administration is planning to deploy more pumps to flush out water from the mine, he said.
“Only two pumps were in service today. Authorities are planning to use more pumps as there was no sign of dip in the water level. Divers can get in only after the water level subsides,” Nongtynger said.
The National Disaster Response Force teams, which are involved in the rescue operation, along with the Meghalaya Disaster Response Force, have suggested the district administration to ask the Oil Natural Gas Corporation to deploy submersible water pumps to reduce the water level.
The Meghalaya government on Monday sought the Union Home Ministry’s help to rescue the miners.
“I have spoken to the Union minister of state for home affairs Kiren Rijiju and requested him to send in more professional teams and the best equipment they have,” chief minister Conrad K. Sangma told mediapersons on the sidelines of a programme here.
The Union minister, he had said, has taken up the matter with experts and soon more assistance would arrive at the accident site.