At least 9 persons were killed in Odisha’s Sundergarh district on Saturday following a massive slide in the coal overburden dump yard of nationalised Mahanadi Coalfields Limited (MCL).
The accident occurred at about 10 am at MCL’s coal mines in the district’s Basundhara area, about 500 km northwest of Bhubaneswar, when a overburden dump caved in following the slide and buried about 20 persons, mostly local villagers, who had gone to extract coal from it in the process.
Police started a rescue operation immediately with the help of local people and MCL authorities. “Bodies of nine persons have been recovered while five persons rescued and admitted in hospital,” Sundergarh superintendent of police Sanjiv Arora said.
Arora said the rescue operation would continue till Sunday to rescue rest of those trapped inside the dump. The MCL has engaged mechanical instruments to clear the heap.
Odisha chief minister Naveen Patnaik expressed his grief over the accident and announced an ex-gratia of Rs. 2 lakh for the families of each of those killed in the accident. He also ordered an inquiry into the incident.
Though MCL authorities clarified that those who died were not their workers, they announced an ex-gratia of Rs. 3 lakh. “The mining areas are prohibited zones. But despite all efforts to prevent unauthorised entry, some people sneak into our skirting mining zones to pick coal from our overburden dumps,” MCL public relation officer Dikken Mehera said.
Overburden is the waste material that lies above the coal reserve that is removed before mining and dumped in a heap. Thousands of local poor illegally extract low-grade coal from the heaps risking their lives to earn their livelihood.