NDRF rubbishes 'foul odour' theory in Meghalaya, says it's from stagnant water not decomposed bodies

Shillong: The National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) team, which has been engaged in rescue operation at an illegal coal mine in Ksan area of East Jaintia Hills in Meghalaya for over two weeks now, have denied media reports which claimed that NDRF had "indicated" that the 15 trapped miners may be already dead.

Reports on Wednesday claimed NDRF personnel experienced a ‘foul odour’ emanating from the mine pit after they lowered down the 320-feet tunnel that leads to the horizontal ‘rat-hole’ tunnels through which miners excavate the coal. Some concluded the foul smell as a sign of decomposing bodies.

Representational image. PTI

Representational image. PTI

Santosh Kumar Singh, assistant commandant of 1st Battalion NDRF who is in charge of the rescue operation, said a section of the media has misquoted the rescuers, denying that the NDRF ‘indicated that trapped miners could be dead’, as reported. "When water gets confined in a tunnel for days, a foul odour is normal. You cannot say this smell is from decomposed dead bodies," Singh clarified.

“The water is not stagnant, so I don't think that there should be a foul smell. It will if the water is contaminated,” Jaswant Singh Gill, a mining expert said. Gill, in 1989, had rescued 64 people from a flooded quarry in West Bengal. Talking about the chances of survival for the 15 miners, Gill said, "The chances are very bleak as water level in the 320 feet vertical tunnel is 70 feet. But we should keep our fingers crossed and not speculate."

At least 12 lakh litres of water has been pumped out of the minepit where 15 miners have been trapped for over two weeks now (since 13 December). However, water level in the vertical tunnel hasn’t gone below 70 feet, according to the NDRF rescue team. The miners got trapped when water from the nearby Lytein river flooded the mine within a span of 5-6 minutes leaving no time for the miners to escape.

Singh said his divers can dive into the tunnel once the water comes down to 40 feet from the present level of around 75-80 feet. While the NDRF has asked the administration to provide 100 HP pumps to fasten the rescue, they haven’t got the required equipment yet.

Meghalaya chief minister Conrad Sangma has stated that the rescue operation has become extremely difficult as the water level has been continuously rising.

“The situation is extremely difficult as the water level is rising and not receding. We are in process of getting high power pumps. The Ministry of Home Affairs is constantly in touch with us and there is no question of calling off the rescue operation,” Sangma said on Wednesday.

While the water level on the second day of the accident was reported to be 70 feet, it stands between 75-80 feet now. So far, the rescue operation, which started on 14 December, was halted twice — once due to incessant rain that lashed the northeast on third day of the operation and again on 24 December due to lack of efficient water pumps.

 

The fortune of the trapped miners in East Jaintia Hills of Meghalaya has also entered the national political discourse after Congress president Rahul Gandhi tweeted taking a jibe at Prime Minister Narendra Modi for posing at inaugural event in Assam on 25 December and ignoring a tragedy in neighbouring Meghalaya.

The author is a Guwahati-based freelance writer and a member of 101Reporters.com

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Updated Date: Dec 28, 2018 11:33:29 IST

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