Underwater probe used to track Indian miners as hopes fade

2019-01-01 07:02

The Indian Navy on Monday sent an underwater probe into a flooded mine in a bid to trace 15 miners who have been missing for more than two weeks, officials said.

The so-called "rat-hole" miners have been trapped since December 13 when water gushed into Ksan mine from a nearby river in the remote northeastern state of Meghalaya.

The navy has sent divers and search equipment to the mine after a public outcry over the slow pace of the rescue, with many of the miners' families fearing it is now too late for them to be found.

"Rat hole" mining involves digging into the side of hills and then burrowing tunnels up to 1.5m high to reach a coal seam.

The remotely controlled probe was the latest initiative in the increasingly desperate search for the men.

No sign of life

Authorities have been struggling to pump out water from the 115m-deep mine so that divers can approach the area where the men are believed to be.

Navy divers entered the mine on Sunday but failed to trace anything.

"The Navy will commence diving again once the water level is brought down," Federick M. Dopth, deputy commissioner of East Jaintia Hills district, told AFP.

Rescuers say there has been no sign of life but insist it is still possible the miners may have found an air pocket.

Santosh Kumar Singh from the federal National Disaster Relief Force told AFP that the emergency crew "is doing their best and they can only hope for good".

At least 15 miners were killed after they were trapped in a flooded rat hole mine in Meghalaya in 2012. Their bodies were never recovered.

A federal environment court banned wildcat mining in the mineral-rich state in 2014 after local communities complained it was polluting water sources and putting the lives of miners at risk.

But the practice continues, with mine owners and the state government challenging the ban at India's Supreme Court.

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