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Odisha, navy teams reach Meghalaya mine, to begin rescue operations tomorrow

The initial rescue operation to help the miners had to be stopped as the pumps were not adequate to flush out large volumes of water. The state government then sough Centre’s help and high-powered pumps and a team was dispatched from Odisha.

india Updated: Dec 29, 2018 18:10 IST
Meghalaya,miners trapped,East Jaintia Hills
An Indian Navy team has reached the mine in Meghalaya’s East Jaintia Hills where 15 people have been trapped since December 13 but will begin their operations on Sunday morning. (HT Photo)

After delays and hiccups, two teams of rescuers—one comprising divers from Indian Navy and another from the Odisha fire services—reached the flooded coal mine in Meghalaya on Saturday where 15 miners are trapped since December 13.

But except conducting recce at the site located at Khloo Ryngksan in East Jaintia Hills district and attempts to set up the high-powered pumps needed to flush out water nothing much happened during the day. Actual work on the ground will begin early on Sunday morning.

National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) Assistant Commandant Santosh Kumar Singh, who is overseeing operations at the rat hole coal mine. said a three member team of the Indian Navy visited the site.”They did a recce of the spot, spent 30 minutes inside the main pit. They also held a meeting with us and are likely to start operation tomorrow. Now that they are here we will assist them,” he said.

The water levels inside the mine remains unchanged, he said.

Ace diver Jaswant Singh Gill from Amritsar with prior experience of saving miners in West Bengal was again at the coal mine today.

A team of Odisha fire and emergency services, who finally reached the spot, tried to install their high-powered pumps. “They may be operational by tomorrow,” Singh said.

“Pumps and other machinery are being installed at the site. Everyone is working overtime with extreme dedication and zeal as our mission is to save lives. That is our top priority,” East Jaiñtia Hills district police chief Silvester Nongtnger told Hindustan Times.

He aid that after all the gear has been installed and put into place on Saturday night, rescue operations will begin on Sunday morning. “We will start right from the first hour itself.”

The initial rescue operation to help the miners started on December 14 once the NDRF and SDRF teams arrived. On December 17, a team of Directorate General of Mine Safety along with Coal India officials arrived and suggested 100 HP submersible pumps be used. The district administration wrote to the state government seeking immediate help from Coal India on December 20. However, it was only on December 26 that Coal India received a request from state government for assistance.

The rescue operation launched by the state government had to be stopped as the pumps were not adequate to flush out large volumes of water. The state government then sough Centre’s help and high-powered pumps and a team was dispatched from Odisha.

But due to total lack of coordination and support from the local administration in Meghalaya, the arrival of 21-member team was delayed.

The team reached Guwahati on Friday morning around 11:30 am, but due to lack of transport provided by Meghalaya they had to wait till 5:45 pm to start their 220 km journey to the mine.

“Initially we were told that we would be travelling by trucks. Then the plan was changed and it was decided that dumpers would be used to shift the equipment to the accident site,” said Sukant Sethi, Chief Fire Officer (Odisha), who is leading the team.

“By the time we reached a primary school (located 25 km from the mine) where we were supposed to spend the night it was 2 am on Saturday. There was no person from Meghalaya government’s side who helped us with basic needs,” Sethi said.

Despite the problems faced by them, the team was keen to reach the spot soon to help the trapped miners. They finally reached around 1 pm on Saturday

Another aspect of seemingly lukewarm response by the government has emerged. Tata Trusts had offered to lend two pumps which it had airlifted from London to augment rescue efforts during the Kerala floods to Meghalaya but till date, there has been no response from the government.

Efforts to reach Peter W Ingty, additional chief secretary in-charge revenue and disaster management by Hindustan Times proved futile as he did not respond to calls.

First Published: Dec 29, 2018 17:47 IST