"There were 30 miners inside. Half of them managed to come out when the rat-hole mine began flooding. It is suspected that the miners punctured the wall of a flooded abandoned mine alongside and the water gushed in," Meghalaya police chief N Ramachandran told HT from state capital Shillong.
"Rat-holes are unscientific mines with very little manoeuvring space, and miners often cut through in different directions. The ones that got trapped could be deeper down. We could have helped rescue them had the mine owners informed us immediately," he added.
Rat-hole mines dot Meghalaya, with miners using primitive tools to burrow in and extract coal, unscientifically and indiscriminately. These mines are privately owned by local tribal communities and the government has little or no control over them.
The ill-fated mine belonged to the nokma or traditional chief of the remote village.