December 26, 2018 / 11:03 AM / a year ago

Families seek miracle at Meghalaya mine where 15 trapped for nearly two weeks

Rescuers work at the site of a coal mine that collapsed in Ksan, in the northeastern state of Meghalaya, India, December 23, 2018. Picture taken December 23, 2018. REUTERS/Stringer

GUWAHATI, India (Reuters) - Rescue workers were trying to reach 15 coal miners trapped underground for 13 days on Wednesday as families prayed for their safe return, but chances of survival looked slim after floodwaters rushed through the illegal “rat-hole” pit in Meghalaya.

The 15 went to work at the mine in Meghalaya on December 13 and have been underground ever since.

“Only God’s grace and some miracle can help them to be alive,” Kyrmen Shylla, Meghalaya’s disaster management minister, told Reuters by telephone from capital Shillong.

The rescue operations were suspended on Sunday following flash floods from a nearby river, officials said.

A team of about 100 National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) experts have been camping at the mine site but their operations have been hampered by lack of sophisticated equipment, S.K. Shastri, NDRF commandant leading the operations, said.

The mine is an old, illegal so-called rat-hole mine, common in Meghalaya but dangerous as the coal is pulled out from narrow, horizontal seams.

Workers, including children, descend hundreds of feet on bamboo ladders to dig out the coal, often leading to accidents at such mines.

Reporting by Zarir Hussain; Editing by Manoj Kumar and Nick Macfie

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