Navy abandons efforts to pull out decomposed body of Meghalaya miner
The Indian Navy abandoned all efforts on Sunday to pull out the decomposed body of a miner that it spotted four days ago inside a coal mine in Meghalaya’s East Jaintia Hills District even as deputy commissioner FM Dopth asked families of the trapped miners from West Garo Hills to come to the site in an effort to identify it.
The Navy divers had spotted the decomposed body of a trapped miner on Wednesday, using an unmanned, remotely-operated vehicle (ROV) at a depth of around 160 feet inside the mine’s main shaft. However they suspended its pulling out as it was disintegrating with every pull by the ROV’s jaw.
“The Navy today suspended the pulling of the remains, which they had been trying since yesterday evening, as too much disintegration (of the body) took place with every pull by the ROV jaw,” operation spokesperson R Susngi said.
The Navy divers were awaiting further instructions from the government, he added.
An NDRF official said since a decision on the dead body has not been taken yet, one of the Navy’s ROV is still attached to the spotted dead body in the rat hole. Till the body is pulled out, the ROV cannot enter this particular rat hole and look for the other miners.
“The Navy had pulled out the ROV after spotting the dead body on Wednesday. It took many hours to spot it again,” a rescuer claimed.
The Navy, meanwhile, continues to scan another rat hole with its second ROV. “It’s a maze of tunnels as you enter the rat hole. They branch out every ten feet. It’s not easy to do it without someone who has worked there,” said the NDRF official.
An ROV operator from Chennai went on with a search operation in the nearby mines and the Coal India continued de-watering in the two nearby abandoned shafts by running their pumps for 23 hours since Saturday evening, Susngi said.
In the last 46 hours, the Coal India had pumped out over 52 lakh litres of water from the nearby abandoned mines, but it was not enough to bring down the water level that was causing hindrances in the rescue work, Susngi said.
The Kirloskar Brothers Limited, which has also joined the rescue efforts, had managed to pump out over 45 lakh litres of water, he said, adding that the Odisha Fire Services had pumped out approximately 4.5 lakh litres.
At least 15 miners are trapped inside the mine since December 13 last year after one of them accidentally punctured the wall of the mine, leading to its flooding.
Their families had on Saturday urged the rescuers to retrieve the decomposed body so that they could perform the last rites.
Meanwhile, superintendent of police (SP) of East Jaintia Hills district Sylvester Nongtynger said they are investigating claims by family of Kuti Miya, a miner from Hojai in Assam, that he too is trapped in the mine.
His brother Aminul Uddin, who also worked in the mine till December 7, said Miya is also trapped. The claim was confirmed by Sayeb Ali, who managed to survive when the mine flooded on December 13.
This would take the number of trapped miners to 16 even as Ali claimed there is one more from Nepal who is trapped inside.
“It’s difficult to know the exact number since the district administration has not been able to get to the Sardar, who was managing the mine operations and knows the details of the people who were working there,” said a NDRF official who is part of the joint rescue team.
The multi-agency operation, which included de-watering of the main shaft where the miners are trapped, and of the nearby mines, has failed to yield any result as the water level has not gone down.
Hopes of any survivors more than a month after the mine flooded have receded. State government officials also suggested that the rescue operation is still under way only because of the Supreme Court order. The matter will be heard again on Monday.
The apex court, hearing a public interest litigation (PIL), seeking steps to rescue the 15 miners, had earlier expressed dissatisfaction with the rescue efforts to trace the miners and rapped the Meghalaya government for not seeking the Army’s help.
(With PTI inputs)