Even as search and rescue operations continue over a week after 15-odd coal miners were trapped in Ksan area of East Jaintia hills district of Meghalaya as water from multiple channels entered the mine, villagers in lower Assam's Chirang district feel sad and helpless.
A lot of them work as migrant labourers in the illegal rat holes coal mines of Meghalaya and say that even after the horrific accident, they will work in the coal mines because they don't have any other option.
"We know it's very risky, but we need money," said Sayeb Ali, the lone survivor of the tragedy.
Another miner from the village, who worked in an illegal mine in Garo hills of Meghalaya, claimed that working in rat hole mines is dangerous, but it brings good money.
"We are uneducated, unskilled and poor. If we take up daily wage jobs in Guwahati, we don't earn more than Rs 300 a day, but in rat hole mines, the pay starts at Rs 1,000 and goes up to Rs 2,000 per day. To make sure that our kids have a better life, we take this huge risk," said Abdul Hussain.
The Meghalaya police are aware of illegal mining as well as transportation of coal, but the coal lobby has huge influence over police and politicians, said a miner, who works in a rat hole mine in Sutunga area.
Meanwhile, the Meghalaya government sources say it has names of 15 miners, but there should be around 18 of them. The lone eyewitness, Sayeb Ali, says 18 people, including him, had entered the mine that morning.
Meghalaya government had sought help of the Army, but the army said it does not have the expertise to pump out water from a 35-foot-long mine, sources said.
A huge volume of water has gushed in through a breach and the river nearby is also on a higher gradient, so water from the river will keep flowing into the mines. Government sources claim that it will take over a month to pump out water this way since all the rat hole mines in the area are interconnected.
Mining experts have been brought in to work out a new plan.
But the sources add that they are now almost certain that under such situation chances of survival are slim.