Rescue operations resume at Odisha mine

Bhubaneswar:  A day after taking out 12 people from the debris, 10 dead and two alive, authorities on Sunday resumed rescue operations to locate about eight others still feared trapped in an opencast coal mine in Odisha, officials said.

"The rescue operation was hit last night due to heavy rain in the area. It was resumed today," Sundergarh District Collector Bhupendra Singh Poonia told IANS.

Around a hundred officials intensified the rescue efforts with the help of three big earth moving machines (poclain machines). Two more such machines are being brought, the official said, adding that the effort would end on Sunday, weather permitting.

A large pile of waste collapsed at Basundhara mining area at Kulda in the district of Sundergarh, about 450 km from state capital Bhubaneswar, when around 20 people including some women were allegedly collecting coal shells from the dump illegally.

The opencast mine where the mishap took place at around 9 am on Saturday belonged to the state-run Mahanadi Coalfields Ltd (MCL), the second-largest subsidiary of the world's largest coal miner, Coal India.

The rescue team on Saturday took out 12 people from the debris. While eight of them were already dead when rescuers reached them, two succumbed on their injuries en route to hospital.

The waste, also known as overburden, is the material that lies above the coal reserve and is removed before mining and dumped in specified places. Since that waste contains some low grade coal shells, some people often sneak into the prohibited area of the mining zone to collect these from the dumps.

"We have repeatedly been warning them not to do so because it is dangerous," MCL spokesman Dikken Mehra said.

MCL chairman-cum-managing director A.N. Sahay announced a compensation of Rs.3 lakh each for the families of those killed. "MCL will also bear the cost of the treatment of those injured," he told IANS.

The company management has also announced Rs.10,000 each to meet the expenses of the last rites of the dead.

Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik announced a compensation of Rs.2 lakh for each of the families of those killed and ordered a probe into the accident, to be conducted by the revenue divisional commissioner of the region.

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