Shillong: At least 13 miners are feared trapped after they got trapped by flooding in an illegal “rat hole” coal mine in East Jaintia Hills of Meghalaya. Rescue operations are underway to rescue the trapped miners from the flooded coal mine at Ksan near Lyteiñ River under Saipung police station.

Meghalaya Chief Minister Conrad Sangma expressed grief over the incident and called it unfortunate. Sangma said, “We’re very concerned about the individuals & their lives. NDRF, district administration and police are doing all they can to save the lives of these miners.”

He went on to add, “We’re aware that illegal activities were going on and but action will be taken at an appropriate time. What is more, right now is to save the lives of these individuals so continuous efforts have been going on and I’ve been in touch with Deputy Commissioner and Superintendent of Police on a continuous basis.”

Sylvester Nongtngr, Superintendent of Police of East Jaintia Hills district said the coal mine was located close to Lytein river and it was being operated illegally. “The mine was filled with water from inside while they were digging it and it collapsed,” the police officer said.

Coal mining has been running illegally despite a National Green Tribunal (NGT) ban in place in Meghalaya since 2014. This is not the first time that labourers engaged in illegal mining of coal have been trapped in a mine, a police officer said.

At least 15 miners were trapped in an illegal rat-hole coal mine near the Nangalbibra area in South Garo Hills in 2012. The bodies were never recovered, officials said.