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Friday, Aug 23, 2019

Centre to send help to Meghalaya to rescue trapped miners: CM Conrad Sangma

The Centre will be sending professional divers and equipment to Meghalaya to help trace and retrieve miners trapped inside a coal mine in Ksan village while ace diver Jaswant Gill from Amritsar has agreed to volunteer.

india Updated: Dec 19, 2018 23:21 IST
David Laitphlang
David Laitphlang
Hindustan Times, Shillong
Emergency workers gathering around a crane after 13 miners were feared killed after being trapped by flooding in an illegal coal mine in Ksan village in Meghalaya's East Jaintia Hills district.
Emergency workers gathering around a crane after 13 miners were feared killed after being trapped by flooding in an illegal coal mine in Ksan village in Meghalaya's East Jaintia Hills district. (AFP)
         

The Centre will be sending professional divers and equipment to Meghalaya to help trace and retrieve miners trapped inside a coal mine in Ksan village of the state’s East Jaintia Hills district.

Speaking to HT over phone from Tura, chief minister Conrad K Sangma expressed gratitude to the Centre for the help, but said that water level was not receding and the pressure was still very powerful, hampering efforts by divers and personnel on the seventh day in their bid to rescue at least 13 people, who are feared dead.

“But we are doing all we can and will leave no stone unturned. I assure you,” he said.

Sangma also revealed that ace diver Jaswant Singh Gill, who hails from Amritsar and had saved 65 miners from the flooded Mahabir mine in Rani Ganj area of West Bengal in 1989 and was subsequently awarded with the Sarvottam Jeevan Raksha Padak in 1991, was coming to the state’s aid.

“Jaswant Singh Gill is not from any government agency but has voluntarily offered to lend his expertise in the rescue efforts and we’re very grateful for that,” Sangma said.

On Tuesday, pumping operations were severely impeded due to inclement weather involving heavy rain and on Wednesday the water level has increased by 26 inches, rescuers said.

According to Satish Kumar Sastri, commandant of the 1st NDRF Battalion, it is strongly suspected that the inflow of the water is not only from the adjacent abandoned coal mine, which was believed to have been breached by the coal miners, but perhaps also from the Lyteiñ river, whose water level, according to sources, is higher than the coal mine and had risen similarly by 26 inches.

“Analytical tests on water samples collected from the accident site, the adjacent coal mine and the river which were elaborately tested at the district laboratory of the Jowai division of the state public health engineering department have revealed that the pH level is 6.5 for all 3. So we are now strongly suspecting that water is also flowing in from the river. Besides yesterday’s heavy rain is not making it better,” Sastri told HT.

East Jaintia Hills superintendent of police (SP), Silvester Nongtnger said with the weather becoming better, rescue efforts are back on track since early morning, but due to Tuesday’s heavy rain, the water level has risen again.

The SP said it was difficult to ascertain for sure how many people are trapped inside.

“As per our information, we initially had 13 names of miners which include three from Lumthari village in the area, six from West Garo Hills and four from neighbouring Assam. But yesterday we have information of one more person was missing, after his family filed a missing person report. He is Abdul Kalam SK from Magurmari village in West Garo Hills,” Nongtnger elaborated.

East Jaintia Hills deputy commissioner (DC) FM Dopth has requested the state government for more powerful pumps as advised by the director of mine safety from the Directorate General of Mines Safety who visited the site.

Ashok Kumar, the mine safety director based in Guwahati, has suggested to the district administration to procure 100 hp submersible pumps with head of 400 feet and capacity of 500 gallons per minute as the present ones (50 hp) being used will not suffice.

He has also suggested the use of heavy duty girders to hold the weight of the pumps which can be used in only 3-4 shafts as all interconnected.

Meanwhile, the Meghalaya Human Rights Commission (MHRC) has filed a suo moto case against the state government asking it to pay compensation to the families of trapped miners, now feared dead. The notice was served to Meghalaya chief secretary.

“Given the gravity of the case, the State Commission is of the firm opinion to grant interim relief to the next of kin of those unfortunate miners and such action of passing interim order shall be considered on the next date fixed herein and necessary order(s) will be passed accordingly,” read a statement signed by the Commission secretary Aldous Mawlong.

Directing the Meghalaya chief secretary to conduct an enquiry, Commission secretary Aldous Mawlong asked him to submit a detailed report within 30 days.

Expressing concern over the matter, the MHRC noted that the illegal mining continued despite the ban imposed by the National Green Tribunal (NGT).

First Published: Dec 19, 2018 23:21 IST

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