Rajrappa (Hazaribagh), Sept. 29: At least 25 villagers were feared killed while digging in an abandoned opencast mine, 75 km from district headquarters Hazaribagh.
Relatives of the victims managed to pull out seven bodies ' all women ' and ran away from the site to avoid police action. Seven hours after the incident, rescuers arrived and retrieved two more bodies from the mine, abandoned by Central Coalfields Limited (CCL).
Neither deputy commissioner Rahul Purwar nor CCL officials could confirm the toll.
Sources said at least 30 villagers were digging in the mine around 7.30 in the morning when the structure collapsed with a deafening sound.
Shishu Kumar Mahto, who was present when the pit caved in, said he helped the villagers pull out 15 bodies. Purwar confirmed that the villagers ran away with seven bodies.
The CCL, however, washed its hands of the incident, saying the accident was the fallout of illegal mining and that the company had nothing to do with it.
“The mine where five or six miners died had been declared abandoned,” said CCL spokesman B.K. Sinha. “The company cannot do much.”
Sinha said the director, technical (operations), M.K. Singh, arrived soon after news of the collapse reached the headquarters.
Singh refused to say much but admitted that the villagers took advantage of a security lapse to go on digging in the mine.
Three days ago, four villagers died when the roof of an abandoned mine collapsed in Banwar in Ramgarh subdivision.
Deputy commissioner Purwar expressed shock over the incident and regretted the attitude of CCL officials. He said he was surprised that so many villagers were digging in these mines illegally under the very nose of the CCL.