42 days after 15 miners were trapped in a flooded illegal "rat hole" mine in Meghalaya, the Indian Navy today managed to recover a decomposed body from the 370-feet deep mine. The body has been sent for a post-mortem.
The body, which was disintegrating, had been spotted last week, but on Wednesday disintegrated and slipped to the bottom of the main shaft while the Navy was trying to bring it out.
Today, 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 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.
Officials say the Navy personnel are trying their best to locate the remains with their unmanned Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROV) in the flooded mine in East Jaintia Hills district.
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.
The 15 miners had disappeared inside the mine on December 13 last year, which led to a multi-agency operation involving the Navy, the National Disaster Response Force or NDRF and leading firms in the country to join the efforts to rescue them in the longest such mission in the country.
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.
According to five miners who had a narrow escape, one of the workers could have accidentally punctured the walls of possibly another nearby abandoned and flooded mine.
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.
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.