Six coal miners were killed in yet another major illegal mining accident last evening in Sorkari, Deiñshalalu village under East Jaiñtia Hills district, a few Kms from the Lad Rymbai junction.
The incident and number of dead was confirmed by Deputy Commissioner of the district, E. Kharmalki.
Speaking to the Highland Post he said that all the six bodies have been recovered and that a team of officials under a magistrate have reached the spot where an inquest will be conducted.
“The bodies were recovered from a shallow pit of mud,” he said.
The deceased have been identified as Jilal Uddin (25) from Jalalbad, Karimganj Assam, Dilwar Hussain (35), Ali Hussain (40) and Mokbul Hussain (45) who are brothers and hailed from Karimganj, Abdul Sabur (32) from Laborputa, Silchar district. The sixth person is yet to be identified.
Meanwhile local sources informed HP that the incident happened when the crane that was being used to dig up the ground broke loose and smashed into the ground.
It is said that the illegal mining operation was being done to either clear up an abandoned mine or dig a new one.
Meghalaya police in a press statement said a criminal case has already been registered under Khliehriat Police Station, and investigation of the case is in progress to establish the whereabouts of the mine owner and the manager of the mine, who have been absconding since the time of the incident.
Police said there are no further fatalities inside the mine even as the District Disaster Management Office (DDMO) along with officials of the State Disaster Response Force (SDRF) had observed all formalities at the mining area.
The incident brought back memories of a similar tragedy inside a rat-hole coal mine at Ksan village in December 2018.
At least 15 miners had got trapped 370 feet below and despite over two-month-long efforts by multiple agencies, including the Indian Navy, the bodies of only a few victims could be retrieved. Five miners had managed to escape while bodies of another 10 miners could not be retrieved.
In 2014, the National Green Tribunal had issued an order banning mining in the state, specifically mining through the rat-hole technique. Despite the ban, there is allegedly no let-up in illegal mining activities.