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13 miners in Meghalaya feared dead, search operations on

December 16, 2018

Three days after 13 people were trapped in an illegal coal mine in a remote region in Meghalaya, search and rescue operations are still on. Over 100 people have been looking for the people trapped in the 320-feet deep mine.

Emergency workers are pumping water out of a large trench that was flooded on Thursday in the East Jaintia Hills district. Rescue teams include personnel from the National Disaster Response, State Disaster Response Force and civil defence.

Rescuers and divers have searched inside the flooded coal mine and all other areas with the help of boats. There is poor light inside the mine as the water is muddy and coal dust. There is no map of the mine available and since it is divided into chambers, locating the people trapped inside is hard.

Police say the mine is an old, abandoned one and that illegal mining had resumed recently. These are called rat hole mines and are common in Meghalaya as they are dug by local people. They are also dangerous as the coal is pulled out from narrow seams.

Speaking to a news channel, Meghalaya Chief Minister Conrad Sangma said, "The focus is on the rescue operations in the area. We are concerned about them.The NDRF and the police are leading the operation. We admit that illegal mining was going on. We will take action. This is not acceptable".

Coal mining has been banned in this state since 2014 after activists complained it was responsible for severe water pollution. But miners are still illegally extracting coal using rat hole mines which often lead to accidents.

Fifteen miners were killed in 2012 after they were trapped inside a flooded rat-hole mine in another part of Meghalaya.

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