Guwahati, February 2: It has been over 50 days that 15 miners were trapped in an illegal coal mine in Meghalaya’s East Jaintia hills district on December 13 last year. Rescue operations undertaken by Indian Navy, NDRF and other agencies have yielded little result, despite intense efforts.
The decomposed body of one of the miners was retrieved on January 24. He was identified as Amir Hussain of Chirang district in Assam. The second body was located on January 26 and even as the Navy team is continuing search operations overnight using their underwater remotely operated vehicle (UWROV), there has been no success so far. Equipment malfunction, running out of gas, loss of visibility inside the mine, flow reversal, siphon condition, toxic gases, besides falling debris and turbidity are hurdles in rescue operation the Navy is facing at the moment.
Though necessary precautions have been taken for the divers to work in contaminated water, the unregulated and unscientific mine with a maze of rat holes has been one of the biggest challenges for rescue teams trying to locate the miners trapped at extreme depths.
Sources said that despite crores of litres of water being pumped out every day, the water level inside the mine remains the same. However, the district administration on Friday said that the services of Odisha Fire and Disaster Rescue team are ‘no longer required’ in pumping operations since Coal India Limited and Kirloskar Brothers (KBL) are using submersible pumps to drain out the water.
District officials further said that National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) continues to provide assistance to the rescue agencies at site. It has been over 50 days since rescue operations began at Khloo Ryngksan, and so far the Navy and NDRF have been able to retrieve just one body. The body was detected after 32 days, and pulled up to the surface with much difficulty.
Meanwhile, 14 Assam Regiment of 24 Mountain Brigade of the Indian Army have set up tents stocked with ration and warm clothes, a 10 KV generator and a 2,000 litres water bowser close to the mine site. The temporary army camp has saved the navy at least 3-4 hours of transit time, which now enables them to work overnight at the site.
Earlier, both the Centre and the state government told the Supreme Court that the rescue operation would not be called off and that no rescue agency would leave the site.
The status report submitted on behalf of Meghalaya government mentioned that “presumably, and as per the latest reports, the bodies of the remaining miners are behind the body detected on January 16”.
As teams continue with the search and retrieval operations, locals said that only conventional methods used by the villagers engaged in mining activities can help locate and retrieve the bodies. The rat-hole coal mines present in Saipung river valley are said to be interconnected, and the water would otherwise be pulled out simultaneously for a certain period of time from each of the mine shaft.
In locating the first body, sources said help was sought from the five survivors of the tragedy who supposedly have a fair idea of the layout of the mine, and the nuts and bolts of the trade. (News18)