Meghalaya Coal mine
A miner slowly carries a heavy load of wet coal on a basket hundreds of feet up on wooden slats that brace the sides of a deep coal mine shaft in Meghalaya.ROBERTO SCHMIDT/AFP/Getty Images)

In a fresh incident in Meghalaya's East Jaintia Hills, at least two miners were killed when an illegal mine collapsed in the region on Sunday, January 7.

The incident took place at Mooknor, Jalyiah village, and came to light only when one Philip Bareh told the police that his nephew hadn't returned home since Friday. The nephew, who worked at the mine has been identified as Elad Bareh, 26.

"A search was conducted and his body was found in front of a 'rat-hole' coal mine. When we further checked inside the narrow mine, another body was found. The second man was identified as Monoj Basumatry," Sylvester Nongtnger, district police chief, told IANS.

"It is suspected that boulders hit them when they tried to extract coal," Nongtnger added. He also revealed that the probe into the mishap was on and the police were looking for the owner of the illegal mine.

The bodies of Edah and Basumatry have now been sent for post-mortem.

The fresh mine collapse comes at a time when the rescue operation in a previous mishap in the same district is yet to be completed. About 15 miners remain trapped in a mine in Ksan village after the mine was flooded on December 13.

Several teams have been trying to drain out the water from the 370-foot-deep pit, which is also said to be very narrow, since. However, rescue operations hit a roadblock after the high-capacity pumps of Kirloskar Brothers Limited and Coal India Limited reported technical issues on Sunday.

"Two pumps from Kirloskar Brothers and the submersible pump from Coal India encountered glitches and the dewatering process in the main shaft was affected," Reginald Susngi, spokesperson of the operation, told the Press Trust of India.

While the Kirloskar pumps are undergoing repairs, the Coal India pump has now been replaced. Three more pumps are likely to be used on Monday.

The firefighting team that arrived from Odisha is said to be continuously working to drain out the water and divers from the Indian Navy and the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) have also been pressed into action. But the process has also been slow as the operation is usually suspended at around 5 pm as it gets dark.