In pictures: India coal fires

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Underground fires have been burning in the small dusty coal town of Jharia in the eastern Indian state of Jharkhand for more than 80 years now. All efforts to put out the fires have been in vain. Photos: ©Arindam Mukherjee: BBC

Jharia coal fires
In places like Laltenganj, the fires are now burning overground.

Jharia coal firesIn the Kujama slum, authorities have put up a notice asking the slum-dwellers to evacuate the area as the coal mine fire threatens the village and its residents. But people here are too poor to move from their crumbling shelters, and continue to live in the area, risking their lives.

Jharia coal firesA man walks through the rubble of a house at Indra chowk, located on the border of Jharia town. The residents say that fire has spread to their homes in the last 10 years.

Jharia coal firesMany miners and their family members negotiate the burning pits to find chunks of coal they can sell in the illegal market to make some money on the side. Here, a young girl carries a basket of coal taken from the opencast pit.

Jharia coal firesFire-induced landslides have killed at least five people in the last five years.

Jharia coal firesDays in Jharia are hot and smelly and bring drafts of nauseating air from the burning pits and nearby coal mines.

Jharia coal firesAlthough the area is not fit for human habitation, many poor people who work in the coal mines live here. Here, financial worries take precedence over concerns for safety.

Jharia coal firesHere, a young girl makes her way through the poisonous gases and fumes originating from the burning coal beneath the surface. The temperature here is so high and the air quality so poor that people have developed many health complications.

Jharia coal firesAfter years of extensive coverage in the media of the appalling conditions in the area, the authorities have announced a rehabilitation project.

Jharia coal fires
A resident of Kujama slum, 75-year-old Sarala Devi is an asthma patient. More than 60% of the population in the region is sick. Dangerous pollutants from the gases, fumes and coal dust are devastating human lives here.

Jharia coal firesThe fire and the poisonous smoke are affecting the lives of people living in and around the town. In the affected areas, most trees have been burnt into dry stubs and there is little vegetation left.

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