At least 13 workers are feared dead after being trapped inside an illegal coal mine in the Indian state of Meghalaya.
The incident took place due to flooding at a mine at Ksan village near Lyteiñ River in the East Jaintia hills district, the Press Trust of India (PTI) reported, citing local police reports.
East Jaintia hills Superintendent of Police (SP) Sylvester Nongtynger told the news agency that the workers were engaged in the rat-hole mine near the river and were trapped inside due to overflowing of water.
The local administration is carrying out rescue efforts, involving the pumping of water from the flooded mine.
The police department is looking for the people responsible for the illegal mining operations and has registered a case.
Meghalaya Disaster Management Minister Kyrmen Shylla was quoted by the news agency as saying: “We are waiting for a report from the district authorities in this regard.”
The National Green Tribunal, which is the country’s statutory body that handles cases pertaining to environmental issues, has prohibited unscientific and unsafe rat-hole coal mining in Meghalaya since 2014.
The order was in response to a petition that alleged coal mining in Jaintia Hills has turned the Kopili river water acidic.
Rat-hole mining involves digging small pits into the ground to reach the coal seam and making tunnels to extract coal.
Police officials told PTI that at least 15 miners were killed in 2012 after being trapped in an illegal rat-hole mine near the Nangalbibra area in South Garo Hills.