Shillong: As time is running out for the 15 miners trapped inside an illegal coal mine in Meghalaya's East Jaintia Hills district since 13 December, rescue efforts have started gathering pace with teams of rescuers, experts and divers from different agencies making their way to ground zero.
The Indian Navy has deployed a team of 15 divers to assist the rescue teams deployed at the rat-hole mine in Ksan area of Lumthari village. "Indian Navy is deploying a 15 member diving team from Visakhapatnam to assist in the rescue ops for missing miners in Meghalaya. Apart from special diving equipment, the team is also carrying a re-compression chamber and remotely operated vehicles capable of searching underwater," Wing Commander Ratnakar Singh, PRO Defence, Meghalaya said on Friday.
"The team is expected to arrive on site on Saturday. An initial assessment to determine an effective response was undertaken by the Indian Navy today," he added.
Pumps are coming!
A 21-member additional team of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) along with equipment including high-pressure pumps is on its way to the spot.
After, more than a fortnight since the tragedy wherein 15 miners were trapped inside a coal mine after it got flooded and the pumps — which were locally available and initially used did not provide the desired results, the operation may now go into the “next level” with 20 high pressure pumps on their way.
Apart from the 10 pumps being brought by the NDRF, the Coal India Limited too, on a request from the Meghalaya government, has dispatched 10 high power pumps from its various subsidiaries across the country.
The 21 NDRF personnel and the pumps were airlifted from Bhubaneswar in a Lockheed Martin C-130J Super Hercules to Guwahati by the Indian Air Force on Friday morning and from there, they are making the onward journey by road. The NDRF team is also joined by a special team of firefighters from Odisha.
Assistant Commandant 1st Battalion of NDRF, SK Singh, who is heading the rescue operation, said that with the arrival of the high-pressure pumps he was feeling positive that the operation is going in the right direction.
"We are hopeful that the high-pressure pumps will be able to pump out the water from the mine and once the water level recedes we can get down till the end. I am very optimistic,” Singh said.
Tough road ahead
Meanwhile, on Friday, General Manager of Coal India Limited's Northeastern Coalfields, J. Borah, visited the accident site.
According to Borah, once the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) survey team reaches the spot it will survey the area and try to find the point from where the water is entering the mine. “Unless that is done it will be very difficult to de-water the shaft,” he said.
"We have got a good number of pumps from our subsidiary companies from Bilaspur, Nagpur, Dhanbad and Ranchi,” Borah said. However, as they are being transported by trucks and trailers, bringing them to the mine’s location will be a task because of the hilly terrain and non-motorable roads.
Borah added that though the pumps, with a capacity of 500 gallons per minute, sourced from different locations, the generator sets for the power supply will have to be arranged locally.
The Coal India Limited official also pointed out the possibility of water entering the mine from other shafts nearby which have been abandoned. “There we need to have a survey work of the area and need to collect information from the miners where these mines are inter-connected or not,” Borah said.
Congress at the coal mine
The state Congress party on Friday sent a delegation of local legislators to the accident site. Himalaya Shangpliang – MLA and state Congress spokesperson said that this was not the time to play politics.
“It is our duty as members of the Congress party to be at ground zero and see with our own eyes what actually happened. What is the reason behind slow rescue work and why not a single minister has visited the accident site yet? Does this show the lackadaisical attitude of the government? The Deputy Commissioner did his best with whatever resources available with him,” Shangpliang said.
Another Congress legislator Ampareen Lyngdoh said that mine owners should have a blueprint of their mines. “Such incidents should be wake up call. From now on, mine owners should have a blueprint of their mines. If they do not have a blueprint and a tragedy such as this occurs, it will be difficult for us to help,” Lyngdoh said.
Kyrmenlang Uriah is a Shillong - based freelance writer and a member of 101Reporters.com.
Updated Date: Dec 29, 2018 15:00:20 IST