Rescuers are now citing "the Almighty" as one of their last hopes for getting 15 coal miners out of a "rat-hole" mine in the Indian state of Meghalaya. Per ABC News, things look dire for the trapped men, who didn't emerge from the mine on Dec. 13, and those seeking to rescue them have been hampered by flooding inside the mine and a lack of equipment needed to drain it. NDTV notes that nearly a dozen 100-horsepower pumps are needed to clear the water so that divers can enter the mine and search for the missing, but "those pumps are not available with the Meghalaya government," officials say. A couple of 25-horsepower pumps were being used, but they weren't effective. Per NDTV, high-powered pumps sent to rescue a boys soccer team in Thailand earlier this year came from an Indian company, making the lack of pumps for this local rescue even more frustrating.
Coal mining in Meghalaya is a hot topic: It can be extremely lucrative, but it also wreaks havoc on the environment, so it was banned in the state in 2014. However, illegal and often perilous "rat-hole" mines started popping up soon after, in which locals use simple tools to burrow into the ground. The Times of India notes that sometimes even children are recruited to head underground to bring up the coal. The leader of a local indigenous group tells ABC that even the hopes of retrieving the men's bodies should they die is iffy, due to the extreme saltiness of the water in the mine. "It is possible that the bodies may disintegrate and never be recovered by the authorities," he says. (A West Virginia man has been accused of entering a mine to have sex, among other things.)