Owner of Meghalaya coal mine held, 5 still trapped inside

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(Eds: Adding details) Shillong, June 3 (PTI) The owner of the illegal coal mine in Meghalaya's in East Jaintia Hills district, in which five miners were trapped for four days, was arrested, a police officer said on Thursday.

The owner, Shining Langstang, was arrested from Sutnga village near the mine.

The rat-hole mine at Umpleng, about 20 km from Khliehriat, the district headquarters of East Jaintia Hills District, was flooded after a dynamite explosion on Sunday.

Hazardous rat-hole coal mining is not permitted in Meghalaya after the National Green Tribunal (NGT) banned it in 2014.

'The Sordar (mine manager) is on the run and we are trying to arrest him. In this regard, a lookout notice has been issued and his posters have been put up throughout the district,' Superintendent of Police Jagpal Singh Dhanoa told PTI.

Though joint operations by personnel of the State Disaster Response Force (SDRF) and the fire service were on Thursday bolstered by a 24-member National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) team, the divers could not make any headway due to the water level in the main vertical shaft, an official said.

At least five miners have been identified by the district administration - four from Assam and one from Tripura -who are stuck somewhere in the mine.

The SP said, six co-workers of the trapped persons who had a miraculous escape as they were outside the mine have been escorted to their homes in Assam.

However, the district administration has registered a case against the survivors as they were also allegedly involved in illegal mining, the SP said.

The survivors will not be arrested if they comply with police orders to appear as and when necessary, he said.

East Jaintia Hills district deputy commissioner E Kharkmalki said, 'Today NDRF team has confirmed that water level is 150 feet in the main vertical shaft which is not conducive for rescue operations.

'As of now, more water pumps should be put into action to lower the water level. Additional water pumps will be used tomorrow,' he said.

A magistrate posted at the accident site said none of the trapped miners could be located as the water level is too high for rescue divers to enter the mine.

Rescuers on Wednesday had tried to reach out to the miners with hooks, ropes, and a crane but the efforts were in vain. PTI JOP MM MM