Shillong: Rescue operation is underway to save the 15 miners who were trapped at the 370-foot-deep illegal coal mine in East Jaintia Hills district. However, a survivor of the December 13 accident said that the trapped men have no chance to come out alive. The survivor asked, ” How long can a person hold his breath underwater?”

Sahib Ali, from Assam’s Chirang district, is one of the five men who narrowly escaped the flooding coal mine a fortnight ago. He said that the four other miners who came out alive dealt with the task of loading coal into the metal box. They had fled to their homes in West Garo Hills district of Meghalaya, said Ali adding, “There were 22 of us who went in that day. I had worked for two weeks. Many are diggers who went to the farthest part of the mine. Some are cart pullers like me and we all work in a synchronised manner in small holes that barely fit a big man.”

All the workers began their duties at about 5 am. However, by about 7 am, the entire mine was filled with water. On December 13, Ali had allegedly spent his day at the flooded mine and slept in a nearby active coal mine during the night. Recounting the horror, Ali said, “My only hope is to see that their bodies pulled out and last rites be carried out as per traditions.”

In total, seven persons from Rajabala in West Garo Hills district, three persons from Lumthari village, and five others from Assam are confirmed to have been trapped inside the mine. On December 22, the state government had announced an interim relief of Rs. 1 lakh to the family members of each of the 15 miners trapped and feared dead, 10 days after the accident occurred.

 A National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) official said, as of December 29, the water level stood at about 170 feet of the mine.

(With PTI inputs)