Jharkhand: Trapped miners dig their way out after 60 hours

The abandoned BCCL mine at Prabatpur caved in during illegal excavation

Four people who were trapped inside an abandoned coal mine in Bokaro, Jharkhand, dug their own way out early on Monday morning and reached home after over 60 hours.

Lakshman Rajwar (42), Anadi Singh (45), Ravana Rajwar (46) and Bharat Singh (45), all residents of Tilatand village of Chandankyari block in Bokaro district, were among the six who had gone to excavate coal illegally in an abandoned Bharat Coking Coal Limited (BCCL) mine at Prabatpur on November 26 when it caved in trapping them. Two, however, managed to come out.

“We had alerted BCCL officials, and the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) personnel were deployed there to look for the trapped villagers. But they all came out on their own around 3:30 am on Monday,” said Bokaro Superintendent of Police Chandan Kumar Jha. The Bokaro police has asked BCCL authorities to fill up such abandoned coal mines “so that such incident would not be repeated”, he said.

The NDRF team reached the spot on Sunday and started its operation, but failed to locate the trapped villagers. All the four survived on water and kept digging day and night. They finally emerged from the mine in the early hours of Monday.

“For the first few hours we waited for help, but then realized we will have to dig our own way out. We took turns to dig day and night to conserve our torch battery and the limited amount of water. Thankfully, we were going in the right direction,” said Lakshman Rajwar.

The villagers and family members who had lost all hope of seeing them alive celebrated their home coming.

Jharkhand accounts for 29% of India’s coal reserves and three big coal companies, BCCL, CCL(Central Coalfields Limited) and ECL (Eastern Coalfields Limited), operate here.

According to a BCCL official, there are hundreds of abandoned coal mines in Bokaro, Dhanbad, Hazaribagh, Ramgarh, and others areas of Jharkhand where poor tribal people are engaged by coal mafias to excavate coal worth of several crores. On the road near Ramgarh, one can see a long line of villagers pulling their bicycles loaded with coal excavated from abandoned mines.

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