Shillong: People of the nation are praying for the safe return of 15 miners trapped in a 370-foot-deep rat-hole coal mine in the Lumthari village in Meghalaya's East Jaintia Hills district after the divers from the Indian Navy and NDRF failed to reach the bottom of the pit on the 17th day of the ongoing rescue operation. 

"Six divers from the Indian Navy and NDRF went down the shaft of the mine and reached a depth of about 80 feet from the surface of the water. They spent over two hours searching for traces of the miners in the shaft," said east Jaintia Hills district Superintendent of Police (SP) Sylvester Nongtynger, according to PTI. 

The National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) is coordinating the rescue operations with the help of Navy, the NDMA and Coal India Ltd after water from the nearby Lytein river gushed into the mine and trapped the miners on December 13. 

A fellow miner who escaped the pit in the nick of time said, “There is no way the trapped men will be alive. How long can a person hold his breath underwater?”

He said that on the fateful day, the miners started working at around 5 AM and by 7 AM the entire mine was flooded. 

“There were 22 of us that day… Most of us are diggers who went to the farthest corners of the mine. Some, who are cart pullers like me, work in synchronisation in small holes that barely fit a person…My only hope is to see their bodies being retrieved and the last rites being carried,” the miner added. 

On December 31, divers from the Indian Navy and NDRF will again attempt to reach the bottom of the water-flooded mine.