Crews in India said they’ve recovered the body of one of the miners trapped in an illegal mine, officials said Thursday. But 14 are still unaccounted for.
Twenty miners initially went into the shaft — known as a “rat hole” mine — on Dec. 13. The mine has horizontal tunnels that can each hold only one person at the bottom of the shaft. It’s believed one of the miners may have punctured the wall of the shaft, allowing water from the Lytein River to flood the cave.
Five escaped, but 15 became trapped in the network of tunnels in the 370-foot-deep coal mine in Lumthari village of East Jaintia Hills.
Thursday, the Indian Navy found the body of one miner at a depth of more than 200 feet. The navy said it was retrieved from the mine under the care of doctors.
Rescuers are using remote-operated underwater vehicles to reach the remaining miners. Their conditions are unknown.
The trapped miners have created a political firestorm in India, as political opponents in Congress criticized the state for its “failure” to rescue the miners.
“The water inside the mine shaft can be quite saline,” John F. Kharshiing, chairman of the Grand Council of chiefs in Meghalaya, said. “It is possible that the bodies may disintegrate and never be recovered by the authorities.”
The “rat hole” mining technique has been outlawed in India since 2014.