Meghalaya: After losing second body, rescuers struggling to retrace it
It has been three days since rescue forces detected the body of a second miner inside the flooded rat hole coal mine in Meghalaya where 15 miners got trapped in early December. Now, officials have said that the body had slipped from their view shortly after discovery, and that they are struggling to retrace it. Here are the details.
The first body had been discovered after a month's search
After over a month of rescue efforts, the body of one miner was spotted by Indian Navy divers on January 16. Finally, after a week of trying to fish the body out of the flooded mine, the body was recovered on January 24. It was then identified as belonging to 30-year-old Amir Hussain from Assam's Chirang district. He is survived by his mother, wife, and three young children.
The second body was spotted on Republic Day
Then, at around 3am on January 26, one of the underwater remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) used by the Indian Navy spotted a second body. At around noon on Republic Day, attempts were made to fish out the body from the flooded mine shaft, but it slipped from the ROV's grasp. The ROV, too, got stuck on something, further complicating body retrieval efforts.
Why retracing the second body has become so difficult
It's believed that the ROV got stuck on a wooden cart inside the flooded mine, and after two days of efforts, the vehicle was retrieved on January 28. However, since the second body slipped from the ROV's grasp, it has not been traced, and efforts are on to trace it. That said, multiple obstacles inside the flooded mine, and low visibility underwater are making operations difficult.
On January 28, the Army joined in on rescue operations
In a parallel development on January 28, the Indian Army, too joined in on the rescue operations, 46 days after the miners went missing. Having set up 15 tents near the mine, the Army has promised to assist the Navy for "efficient, smooth, round the clock ops". Meanwhile, the state government has assured the Supreme Court that all efforts are being undertaken to retrieve the miners' remains.
Backstory: The miners got trapped on December 13
The mine in question is located in Meghalaya's East Jaintia Hills district, near the Lytein river in Ksan village. Reportedly, the miners started work on the illegal mine on December 11, and got trapped on December 13 when water from the Lytein river gushed in and flooded the mine. It's believed that the miners accidentally breached an old, flooded mine, leading to the disaster.
Government apathy is to blame for the miners' fate
It should be noted here that the miners might have had a chance if the Meghalaya state government had not been apathetic in its initial response. From the very first day, rescue operations were marred by poor coordination between agencies, lack of requisite equipment, and days of delay owing to bureaucracy. Given the time that has passed, it's almost certain that no one will survive.