Six from Assam feared trapped inside Meghalaya coal mine after mishap

Express News Service
GUWAHATI: The authorities in Meghalaya are trying to verify “source-based” information that at least six labourers from Assam are trapped 500 feet inside a coal mine in the state’s East Jaintia Hills.

The Meghalaya Police on Monday tweeted: “Information has emanated from SP Silchar (in Assam) that 6 persons from Assam are trapped in a coal mine in EJ Hills. The mine has been identified at Sutnga interior, under Umpleng AD camp and search operations are on. SP @ejhpolice and IG (L&O) are at the suspected PO.”

One Karimul Bari had tipped off the Cachar police on Monday that one of his neighbours died in a coal mine accident in Meghalaya two days ago. He claimed that the bodies of five to seven labourers were buried 500 feet inside the mine.

East Jaintia Hills District Magistrate, E Kharmalki told The New Indian Express that the police had received information from sources about the incident. He said they were trying to verify it.

“So far, nobody has intimated us anything officially but we have sent the police to the site. We will also send an SDRF team tomorrow (Tuesday), not to conduct rescue as such but verify if the mishap indeed occurred and people are trapped,” Kharmalki said.

“It will be good if the members of the families or relatives come forward. The weather today is inclement and we hope it will be fine tomorrow. If people are indeed trapped, we will carry out a rescue operation,” he added.

Illegal rat-hole coal mining is allegedly rampant in Meghalaya despite a ban imposed by the National Green Tribunal in 2014. Most coal mines are owned by powerful people, activists say.

The last known incident of a coal mine mishap in the state took place in East Jaintia Hills in January this year in which six labourers from Assam had lost their lives. In December 2018, at least 17 labourers, mostly from Assam, were killed in a flooded coal mine at Ksan, also in East Jaintia Hills.