Divers hunt flooded Indian mine for missing men
NEW DELHI, Dec 30: Indian navy divers on Sunday launched an operation to find 15 men trapped for more than two weeks in a flooded "rat-hole" coal mine in remote northeast India, police said.
The workers have been cut off since December 13 when water from a nearby river poured into the 106-metre (348 feet) deep illegal mine in Meghalaya state.
There has been no sign of life, with the delayed rescue effort drawing public outrage, but the men's families are clinging to hopes that they may have found an air pocket.
"Fourteen navy divers arrived yesterday (Saturday) and surveyed the mine. They are trying to go inside now," police superintendent Sylvester Nongtnger told AFP.
"Rat hole" mining involves digging into the side of hills and then burrowing tunnels up to five feet (1.5 metres) high to reach a coal seam.
A federal environment court banned wildcat mining in the mineral-rich state in 2014 after local communities complained it was polluting water sources and putting the lives of miners at risk.
With mine owners and the state government challenging the ban at India's Supreme Court, the practice remains rampant.
Most of the miners are poor migrant labourers from neighbouring states.
In 2012, 15 miners were killed after they were trapped in another flooded rat-hole mine in Meghalaya. Their bodies were never recovered.
The latest incident has sparked a public outcry over the practice as well as poor rescue efforts. The rescue had been hampered by a lack of power pumps and other equipment. -AFP