The body of a miner that was retrieved from the illegal "rat hole" mine in Meghalaya's East Jaintia Hills on Thursday, has been identified by his relatives. At least 15 miners had disappeared into the mine on December 13 last year.
The miner was identified as Amir Hussain by his mother and wife with the help of an amulet he wore around his neck. The 25-year-old was from Assam's Chirang district.
Although the body was largely intact, it was extremely decomposed. Almost all the families of the 15 miners saw the body.
Two others from the same village are among the 14 miners whose bodies are still being searched for.
Amir's body was previously preserved in the Community Health Centre at Khliehriat, the district headquarters of East Jaintia Hills. The body has no been handed over to his family and authorities are helping them to transport the body back to his village in Assam.
Yesterday, the body was recovered from a depth of about 100 feet within the flooded mine, brought up to the water surface, and then pulled out by a crane.
The body had been spotted last week, but on had disintegrated and slipped to the bottom of the main shaft while the Navy was trying to bring it out.
A 15-member Naval team from Visakhapatnam will continue to search for the other 14 bodies with the help of a UROV.
The families of four of the 15 miners had on Saturday asked the rescuers to retrieve the decomposed body so that they could perform the last rites.
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.
Several high-powered pumps are also being used at the site to pump out water from the abandoned mines, but the water level has barely gone down.
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, one 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.