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SHILLONG, January 19, 2019: District authorities on Friday visited the families of three of the 15 miners who are trapped, now for over a month, inside an illegal flooded coal mine in Meghalaya and expressed their "inability" to evacuate them.
Deputy Commissioner of East Jaintia Hills district, F.M. Dopth broke the news to Jostina Dkhar, the mother of Dimonme and Melambok, and Rita Dkhar, the mother of Shalabas when he visited them this evening at Lumthari village, about 3km before reaching the tragedy site at Ksan village.
"The Deputy Commissioner met my sisters this evening at their residences at Lumthari village and expressed the authorities' inability to evacuate my nephews who are trapped inside the coal mine," Pressmeky Dkhar, the uncle of the two brothers, told IANS over phone.
"The DC did not say whether they are dead or alive but asked my sisters to consult the clan members and inform him about the decision," Dkhar said.
The three cousins from Lumthari were among the 15 trapped miners – seven from villages under Rajabala constituency in West Garo Hills, and five from neighbouring Assam.
Dkhar reiterated that the families of the trapped miners want the body to be taken out at any cost from the flooded mine for a decent burial.
"We only want the bodies of Dimonme, Melambok and Shalabas to be taken out from the mine so that we can give them a decent burial according to our religious rites," Dkhar said.
The families of the trapped miners whom IANS spoke to on Thursday had said they want the "dead bodies" of the miners to be taken out as per the Supreme Court order.
A Supreme Court bench comprising Justices A.K. Sikri and S. Abdul Nazeer had expressed dissatisfaction with the rescue operation and ordered : "No matter whether they (trapped persons) are all dead, some alive, a few dead or all alive, they should have been taken out by now. We pray to God that they all are alive."
On Wednesday, the Indian Navy divers detected a dead body inside the coal mine through an underwater ROV (remotely operated vehicle).
The Naval team had said the body will be extracted under the supervision of doctors. However, it is not known if the body was retrieved on Friday.
Senior medical officials from the state's health and family welfare and Director General of Police R Chandranathan who visited the tragedy site were tightlipped.
The Meghalaya government has roped in several Central agencies including a team from Hyderabad-based Natonal Geophyscial Research Institute and Chennai-based Plnays Technologies in the rescue operation.
Coal India Limited, Odisha firefighters, Kirloskar Brothers Limited are dewatering the abandoned coal mine shafts and the main shaft where the miners are trapped.
Coal mine accidents have been rampant in the mountainous state even after the National Green Tribubal imposed an interim ban on 'rat hole' mining in April 2014.