Guwahati: The operation to rescue 15 people, trapped in a 320-foot-deep coal mine at Meghalaya’s East Jaintia Hills, has entered its seventeenth day. Now equipped with ten high-powered pumps that are required to pump out the water from the flooded mine, the authorities are preparing for the final push of the rescue operation. A team of divers from the navy airlifted from Vishakhapatnam will be pressed into action today to locate the miners.
Here are 10 facts on Meghalaya rescue operation:
- The navy divers are carrying sophisticated equipment, including underwater Remotely Operated Vehicles, to find the men in the “rat-hole” mine, a navy release said on Saturday.
- The navy team was airlifted from Vishakhapatnam to Guwahati. Then, a chopper flew the team to the nearest helipad at Khleihriat. They were then driven to the mine by road. Divers in the Indian Navy are among the most respected in the world. The mine is located on top of a hillock fully covered with trees
- The navy had recently sent a survey team comprising an officer and two divers to assess the nature of the rescue operation. A team from Kirloskar Brothers Ltd – a heavy equipment company that has agreed to assist in the rescue efforts – also dropped by to take stock of the situation.
- Firefighters from Odisha equipped with high-tech equipment also reached the site on Saturday to assist in the rescue operation.
- National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) Assistant Commandant Santosh Kumar Singh has briefed the team leader of the navy divers and the chief fire officer of Odisha Fire Services on the rescue operation. “The navy divers with NDRF personnel have gone down the mine at the water surface. We have done a survey. They have been briefed and it will take a bit of time, I am told. But from tomorrow morning (Sunday), we are restarting the rescue operations all over again,” he said.
- “I have updated them (Indian Navy and Odisha Fire Services) on our rescue operations and the equipment, including sonar system used by us to locate the trapped miners but it did not yield positive results,” Mr Singh added.
- The biggest challenge for the authorities is the unavailability of the mine map or blue print of the mine that was being operated illegally. “We don’t have the mining map. This is going to be very tough challenge for all of us,” J Borah, a senior officer of state-run Coal India Limited, said.
- The accident took place on December 13. A surviving member of the team of miners that entered the illegal mine said 22 people had entered the “rat-holes” that barely fit a man. Sahib Ali, from Assam’s Chirang district, claimed he is one of the five men who managed to come out of the mine just before water from a nearby river and another abandoned mine flooded it.
- “I was about 5 to 6 feet inside the mine pulling a cart full of coal. For some unknown reasons, I could feel a breeze inside the mine which was unusual. What followed was big sound of water gushing in. I barely made it to the opening of the pit,” said Sahib Ali. “There is no way the trapped men will be alive. How long can a person hold his breath underwater?” he said.
- The owner of the coal mine, Jrin alias Krip Chulet, was arrested from Narwan village soon after the accident was reported . Police said that they’re searching for more people, including the manager of the illegal coal mine.
With inputs from agencies