25/March/2009: Statesman News Service: A fire that broke out in an abandoned coalmine in Salanpur block near Asansol last night caused land subsidence in the area, leaving thousands of people panic-stricken.
Smoke fumes followed by scattered fire balls covered the entire Samdi, Muchipara and Sangramgarh localities in the Jharkhand bordering stretches at about 12.30 a.m. today. Residents woke up to mild tremors at midnight and ran from their homes. About 400 square metres of surface adjacent to Eastern Coalfields Limited's abandoned Sangramgarh pit caved in due to the subsidence. A senior ECL officials stated: "The fire and subsidence was a result of rampant illegal coal mining in the area." In 2001, 14 labourers engaged by the Mafia had died due to similar subsidence in Sangramgarh. The civil administration and ECL officials were manhandled by the aggrieved residents on arriving at the spot around eight a.m. today. The group included the BDO of Salanpur, Ms Soma Saw; the Salanpur panchayat samiti sabhapati, Mr Shyamal Majumdar, as well as several ECL officials headed by Mr S N Tripathy, custodian manager of the adjacent Bonjemari colliery.
The locals alleged: "Last June, we were told that we would be rehabilitated to a safe zone after previous subsidence in the area. Since then, no officials have come to the village. Today, when yet another subsidence occurred, the same officials have come to estimate the extent of the damage."
Mr Majumdar said: "Nothing has been done for their rehabilitation as yet. The local's distress is valid." BDO Ms Saw said: "The residents will be shifted to a different, safer location in two phases. The ECL has agreed to share the responsibility."
Two fire tenders were pressed into operation to combat the mine fire, though smoke fumes didn't stop till this evening. Mr Tripathy, ECL official, said: "A further dozing operation is required in the area to fill the porous strata from where the residue coal bearing methane is emerging and periodically causing fires."
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