The divers of Indian Navy and National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) on Monday resumed their operation to trace and rescue 15 miners trapped inside an illegal coal mine for the last 19 days in this remote Meghalaya village.
"Divers of the Indian Navy have entered the main shaft of the coal mine to survey the bottom of the sheet using underwater remotely operated vehicle," spokesperson of the rescue operations, R Susgni said. He said the Navy has requested the East Jaintia Hills district authorities to assist in dewatering the pit to 30 meters or within safe diving limit so that the divers can resume diving.
A 15-member diving team had been dispatched from Visakhapatnam on December 28 and reached Meghalaya the next day. ‚ÄúThe team is carrying special diving equipment including a re-compression chamber and remotely operated vehicles capable of searching underwater,‚ÄĚ the Navy spokesperson had tweeted.
The Odisha government had also pitched in, sending a team of 20 specially trained Odisha Fire Services personnel on December 28, to join the rescue operations as well.
Susgni said that the Odisha fire services personnel have also been on the job to dewater at least three abandoned mines flooded nearby the 370-feet-coal pit where 15 trapped miners are trapped. "We are carrying out these safety measures to rule out decompression sickness of the divers," he said.
He added the NDRF is providing all support and assistance to other agencies involved in the rescue operations. The NDRF is also providing all logistics and human resource help to Indian Navy.
More than 200 rescuers, including 14 members of the Indian Navy, 72 NDRF rescuers, 21 Odisha firefighters, 35 Coal India Limited (CIL) officials besides a team of Meghalaya-owned State Disaster Response Force are deployed to carry out the rescue operations.
General Manger of Coal India Limited (Northeastern Coalfields) J. Borah said one of the eight submersible pumps that drain out 500 gallon of water per minute has reached the area.
"Two more pumps will be reaching the site and another two tomorrow along with the auxiliary pipes and other materials which are not available in Jaintia Hills or Shillong," Borah told IANS.
Mining expert and award-winning rescuer Jaswant Singh Gill lamented on the lack of coordination between the state government and rescuing agencies.
"The rescue operations is very slow because lack of coordination from the state and central agencies," Gill told IANS. Gill, who shot to fame after he successfully rescued 64 miners from a flooded quarry in West Bengal in 1989, hoped the trapped miners could be rescued alive. "There are instances that trapped miners can be rescued even after 22 days. Normal people can survive even for a month as there is water in the pit," he noted.
Meanwhile, Congress women workers staged a token protest at the Meghalaya Congress headquarters in Shillong against the Conrad Sangma-led government for the "slow process" in rescuing the trapped miners. Mahila Congress President Joplin Scott Shylla lambasted the Conrad Sangma-led government for the "slow process" in rescuing the trapped miners.
"The government was in its slumber and woke up only after Congress President Rahul Gandhi lamented on the slow progress of the rescue operation," Shylla said.
The accident inside the illegal coal pit on December 13 was of significance, especially because the National Green Tribunal (NGT) had ordered an interim ban on "rat-hole" coal mining in the state from April 17, 2014.
Chief Minster Conrad Sangma had promised that "appropriate action will be taken at appropriate time against the people who are involved in the illegal mining and this is not acceptable to us."