Shillong, May 31: Five coal labourers are feared dead in a coal mine at a depth of around 500 feet at Umpleng, near Jaintia Cements Ltd, East Jaintia Hills.
Police said while four are from Assam, the fifth worker is from Tripura.
The details of the missing persons are Abdul Karim from Boko, Abdul Kalam from Barpeta, two unidentified persons from Silchar and Shyamcharan Debbarma from Tripura.
An official source said on Monday that the incident happened around 5 pm on Sunday after water gushed in from a nearby source like in the case of the incident at the flooded mine at Ksan in East Jaintia Hills where 15 miners died after water gushed in from the Lytein river, East Jaintia Hills, in December 2018.
According to a statement issued to the media by the SP, East Jaintia Hills, Jagpal Singh Dhanoa, as per eye witnesses, due to the sudden explosion of dynamite, five persons got trapped in the sudden rush of water into the mine and in no time, the mine was inundated.
The statement said the district police identified the location at 6 am on Monday based on the information from the SP, Silchar.
Police said the delay was due to inclement weather, poor night light condition and non-availability of eyewitness.
Later, while the rescue and search operations were on, six witnesses came forward to narrate the incident.
Police said the main culprit, according to the witnesses, is the Sordar identified as Nisam Ali, who did nothing to rescue the trapped miners.
“Rather, Ali threatened the survivors with dire consequences and chased them away from the mining site,” police said.
The survivors are being looked after by the police to ensure their safety.
Police registered a case with Khliehriat police station under IPC sections 188/269/270/304A read with Section 21(5) MMDR Act, read with section 51(b) of Disaster Management Act.
One person was detained for questioning but as he tested positive, he was sent to the isolation centre in Khliehriat, police added.
Police have released two phone numbers, 7005286235 and 7005933923, to know the details about the missing persons from Silchar.
Though rat-hole coal mining is banned since April 2014, illegal mining activities have been thriving and the NPP-led MDA government has often been on a denial mode.
Besides, the mine tragedy incident has exposed violation of the Covid-19 protocols.
The matter came to light after a person identified as Karimul Bari tweeted mentioning about the incident and said two days ago, one of his neighbours working in Meghalaya died in a coal mine.
Assam police acted on the information and it was shared with the Meghalaya police.
Initially, information was received from the SP Silchar that six persons from Assam were trapped in a coal mine in East Jaintia Hills. The mine has been identified at a place near Sutnga Elaka under Umpleng Anti-Dacoity camp.
The fresh incident comes just four months after six miners from Assam died in a coal mine at Sorkari Dienshanlalu village near Rymbai on January 21 after the crane carrying them malfunctioned.