Dhanbad: At least four persons died and many are feared trapped as three abandoned coal mines collapsed during illegal mining in Jharkhand's Dhanbad district, officials said on Tuesday.
Prem Kumar Tiwari, the sub-divisional magistrate (SDM) of Dhanbad, said the rescue team, employed by the coal companies, recovered three bodies of women and one of a girl from Gopinathpur Open Cast Project (OCP) of Eastern Coalfield Limited (ECL) in Nirsa police station area.
Tiwari, who is monitoring the rescue operation, said "search for the others who might have been trapped" is underway.
Two other quarries that caved in – Kapasara, also of ECL, and Chach Victoriya of Bharat Coking Coal Limited (BCCL) – are also feared to have buried miners.
Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren said in a tweet, "Some casualties have been reported from the coal mine located in Nirsa, Dhanbad. The district administration is actively engaged in rescue and relief work. May God grant peace to the departed souls and give strength to the family to bear this difficult time of grief. Help is being provided to the injured."
Kapasara outsourcing project was the first to have collapsed around 5 pm on Monday, officials said.
That was followed by Chach Victoriya of Bharat Coking Coal Limited (BCCL) late on Monday, while the third incident happened on Tuesday morning at the Gopinathpur open cast mine.
Rescue operations with heavy machinery are underway at the three mines, officials said.
The incidents happened during illegal mining and only the coal companies can specify the number of people trapped inside, said Superintendent of Police (Dhanbad-Rural) Reeshma Ramesan.
"I can't say the number of casualties and injured. We are verifying the details and would say after getting reports. Our teams have rushed there," she said.
Fearing police action, families of the illegal miners are yet to report to the authorities if there was any person missing, officials said.
Villagers also managed to rescue some of those who could come out of the debris, before the colliery officials or police reached the spot, they said.
An official of ECL said the incident occurred at abandoned mines and so it falls in the purview of the district administration.
"Within our working mines, there is no such information (of collapse). That might be due to illegal activities in abandoned mines but not in our working mines," he said.
"We are not in a position to tell about the number of villagers trapped," he added.
Three people are feared trapped and five persons injured in In the Gopinathpur mine of the ECL, official sources said.
In the Kapasara colliery of ECL, three persons are feared trapped and two persons injured, they said.
Several slippers were found at the entrance gates of the mines, indicating many were trapped.
The BCCL, however, said that it will share the details later.
In Chach Victoriya area of BCCL, three persons were feared trapped in debris after the roof collapsed during illegal mining, official sources said.