Ranchi, Dec 30 (IANS) Nine bodies were recovered from a caved-in coal mine while a search to rescue several others continued in Jharkhand’s Godda district on Thursday night, officials said on Friday.
The tragedy occurred at the Rajmahal Opencast Project of Eastern Coalfields Limited (ECL).
“So far nine bodies have been recovered while two persons have been hospitalised with injuries. Rescue and search operations are on to find other workers who might be trapped,” ECL General Manager (Mining) R.R. Amitabh said.
“All 10 excavators and dump trucks have been extracted from the mine,” added Amitabh.
Jharkhand Director General of Police D.K. Pandey said over 20 workers were feared to be trapped inside the collapsed mine.
The incident, described by the ECL as “unprecedented”, occurred around 7.30 p.m. on Thursday.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi expressed grief over the tragedy.
Modi spoke to Chief Minister Raghubar Das to take stock of the situation and said that the Jharkhand government and Union Power and Coal Minister Piyush Goyal were working to restore normalcy.
While a probe has been ordered, the ECL has announced an ex-gratia compensation of Rs 5 lakh each to the families of those killed, in addition to the amount to be paid under the Workmen’s Compensation Act.
“Prima facie, it is observed that the incident is unprecedented, since an area of 300 metres length by 110 metres width solid floor of the over burden dump area slid down by about 35 metres involving around 9.5 million cubic metres of earth material,” the Coal Ministry said in a statement.
“This could be due to failure of the bench edge along the hidden fault line/slip,” it said.
The probe will be carried out by the Director General of Mines Safety and a ‘high level committee of experts’ has been constituted by Coal India Limited to investigate the causes of the accident.
A heap of mud caved in at the entry point of Lalmatia mines of ECL. At that time more than 70 vehicles were inside the open cast mine the police said.
The National Disaster Response Force was carrying out rescue operations monitored and supervised by senior ECL and state government officials.