Two Indian miners dead in new accident, fate of missing 15 unknown

Indian Navy and NDRF personnel went inside a 370-foot-deep mine, where 15 miners are trapped, to ascertain the water level inside. (AFP)
Updated 07 January 2019

Two Indian miners dead in new accident, fate of missing 15 unknown

  • An “enquiry is underway” and the owner of the quarry is being sought
  • The incident comes as the fate of 15 other miners trapped in an illegal coal mine also in Meghalaya remained uncertain

NEW DELHI: Two miners have been killed in India’s remote northeast, police said Monday as rescuers kept up efforts to save 15 workers trapped for over three weeks in an illegal mine elsewhere in the region.
The two men were likely hit by boulders as they tried to extract coal while digging narrow tunnels on the slopes of a hill in mineral-rich Meghalaya state on Friday, police said.
An “enquiry is underway” and the owner of the quarry is being sought, police superintendent Sylvester Nongtnger said in a statement.
The incident comes as the fate of 15 other miners trapped in an illegal coal mine — known as a “rat mine” — also in Meghalaya remained uncertain.
The miners have been missing since December 13 when water gushed into the narrow pit from a nearby river.
Multiple teams from the National Disaster Response Force, Coal India and the Indian Navy have been struggling to pump out water from the 380-foot (115-meter) deep mine so that divers can approach the area where the men are believed to be trapped.
A federal environment court banned rat-hole mining in Meghalaya in 2014 after local communities complained it was polluting water sources and endangering miners.
But the practice — which involves digging into hills and burrowing narrow tunnels to reach the coal seam — continues with thousands of impoverished migrants risking their lives as rat-hole miners.
On Sunday, Coal India workers managed to pump water out from the main shaft, police said.
Many of the miners’ families though fear it is now too late for them to be found alive.


China gives Hong Kong leader ‘unwavering support’

Updated 16 December 2019

China gives Hong Kong leader ‘unwavering support’

  • The city’s leader is in Beijing for an annual visit, and is set to meet President Xi Jinping later Monday
  • The past month had seen a lull in the violence and vandalism in the city, after pro-democracy parties won a landslide in local council elections

BEIJING: China’s premier told beleaguered Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam on Monday that she had Beijing’s “unwavering support” after a huge rally earlier this month and her government’s thrashing at recent local elections.

The city has been upended by six months of massive pro-democracy protests that have seen violent battles between police and hardcore demonstrators, as well as regular transport disruption.

Protesters have called for the unpopular Lam to stand down as leader, but Li Keqiang said Beijing would give “unwavering support” to her government to maintain the “long-term prosperity and stability in Hong Kong.”

“The central government fully recognizes the efforts you and the SAR (special administrative region) government have paid,” said Li, at a meeting with Lam in the Hong Kong Hall of the imposing Great Hall of People in Beijing.

He said Lam’s government had “tried its best to maintain social stability” amid “an unprecedentedly severe and complicated situation.”

But he also called for the Hong Kong government to “step up studies of the deep-seated conflicts and problems that hinder Hong Kong’s economic and social development” in order to restore calm to the city.

“Hong Kong is yet to get out of its plight. The SAR government must continue its hard work, stop violence and subdue chaos according to laws and restore order,” Li told Lam.

The city’s leader is in Beijing for an annual visit, and is set to meet President Xi Jinping later Monday.

At the meeting with Li, she said she was grateful for the premier’s “care for Hong Kong.”

The semi-autonomous city is ruled under the “one country, two systems” principle, which gives the territory rights unseen on mainland China — rights protesters say are steadily being eroded.

The past month had seen a lull in the violence and vandalism in the city, after pro-democracy parties won a landslide in local council elections.

A week ago, around 800,000 people marched peacefully through the city’s streets, urging the government to respond to their five demands — which include an independent inquiry into the police, an amnesty for those arrested, and fully free elections.

But public anger remains as Beijing and Lam show no sign of giving further concessions despite the election success.

This weekend the relative calm was broken by clashes between black-clad pro-democracy protesters and Hong Kong police in some of the city’s shopping malls.

And earlier this week an international panel of experts hired to advise Hong Kong on the police response to protests announced they were quitting, saying the watchdog was not fit for purpose “in a society that values freedoms and rights.”