- Navy divers detected a body at a depth of nearly 160 feet inside the mine
- 15 miners have been trapped in "rat-hole" mine since December 13
- Rescue teams struggling to pump out water from East Jaintia Hills mine
Navy divers detected the body of one person on Wednesday more than a month after operations began to search and rescue 15 miners trapped in a deep coal mine in Meghalaya. The body - which is yet to be identified - was brought to the mouth of the "rat-hole" mine, the navy said adding the rescue operations were going on.
Some of the families of the miners have been shown the video footage and told that trying to retrieve it may cause the body to completely disintegrate, officials said. The families will share their views on whether bodies should be retrieved or not tomorrow.
The body was detected at a depth of nearly 210 feet inside the 370-foot-deep mine in East Jaintia Hills. It has been pulled up another 100 feet but has started to disintegrate. "Our divers are trying by hit and trial in uncharted mines. At least, we've established they're in this area. The operation will continue until we get orders to stop," said Captain DK Sharma, the navy's spokesperson.
Chief Minister Conrad Sangma said while efforts have been stepped up, it seems very difficult to get the body out as it has decomposed. "We need time," he said.
Divers have also spotted skeletons inside the mines through their remotely operated vehicles though it is not clear if they are of the missing miners, senior officials said. The water inside the mines has high Sulphur content that can decompose bodies very fast, officials added.
Around 200 rescue personnel of the Indian Navy, Coal India, the National Disaster Response Force, Odisha fire service and private pump maker Kriloskar are involved in the search operations. The government has also roped in the National Geophysical Research Institute, the National Institute of Hydrology and other private research institutes.
#MeghalayaMineTragedy#Flash One body detected by Indian Navy Divers using Underwater ROV at a depth of approx 60 feet and 210 feet inside a rat-hole mine @SpokespersonMoD@DefenceMinIndia@nsitharaman@PMOIndiapic.twitter.com/sP1sv6ikRn— SpokespersonNavy (@indiannavy) January 17, 2019
Rescue workers are struggling to pump out water from the depths of the mine, further dimming their chances of survival more than a month into their ordeal.
The 15 men, who went down the narrow pit on December 13, were trapped after water from a nearby river and from an adjacent mine flooded it.
Earlier this month, the Supreme Court had said the search must continue as "miracles do happen". The top court had asked the centre and the Meghalaya government to consult experts and continue efforts to rescue the miners.
The mine is located on top of a hillock fully covered with trees. To reach the mine, a person has to pass the 30-foot wide Lytein river three times. No habitation was found nearby and 80-90 illegal coal mines dot the area.
The slow progress in the rescue efforts in Meghalaya has been contrasted with the dramatic rescue of 12 Thai boys and their football coach from a flooded cave in July last year, which drew a massive international audience.