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On day 18 of Meghalaya rescue, Navy divers reattempt to reach bottom of rat-hole mine

The Meghalaya rescue operation is being conducted by several agencies including the navy, NDRF, Odisha fire service team, officials of the district administration and others.

india Updated: Dec 31, 2018 13:37 IST
Sadiq Naqvi
Sadiq Naqvi
Hindustan Times, Khliehriat
Meghalaya rescue,Meghalaya miners,Coal mine
The Navy divers entered the Meghalaya mine on Monday to survey the bottom using an UnderWater Remotely Operated Vehicle.(Photo credit: District administration)

Indian Navy divers on Monday reentered the main shaft of the nearly 350-feet flooded coal mine in Meghalaya with a remotely-operated device to search for the 15 miners stuck there for 18 days now.

Officials of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) have said the diverscould not reach the bottom of mine on Sunday as the level of the water was 125 feet rather than 70 feet, which they had calculated earlier.

The divers entered the shaft on Monday to survey the bottom using an UnderWater Remotely Operated Vehicle or UWROV after the navy requested the district administration for assistance in dewatering the mine so that the level of water comes down to 30 metres or within the safe diving limit. These safety measures are being undertaken to rule out decompression sickness, officials said.

The rescue operation is being conducted by several agencies including the navy, NDRF, Odisha fire service team, officials of the district administration and others.

The remote mine is a 1-1/2 hour drive and then a half-hour hike from the district headquarters of the East Jaintia Hills district. Only four-wheel-drive SUVs can navigate the three streams and the steep uphill dirt road that the last two-kilometre stretch comprises.

Watch: Indian Navy diver, NDRF personnel enter mine shaft in Meghalaya

An 18-member team of the navy equipped with diving sets, remotely-operated vehicles, re-compression chambers and other essential rescue gear began its rescue operation on Sunday, when their equipment finally arrived, amid criticism of the state government.

“In these conditions, we can dive up to 45 meters (146.7 feet) but it will be dangerous for us to get into the rat holes at the bottom because sharp edges can damage diving suits and air tubes and endanger the diver,” a navy diver had told the Hindustan Times on Sunday.

Also read: ‘How long can one hold his breath underwater’: Man who narrowly escaped Meghalaya mine flooding

The miners have been missing after the illegal coal mine they were digging got flooded in the coal-rich East Jaintia Hills, an area where illegal mining is rife and a National Green Tribunal ban on such activities has been in place for four years.

Meghalaya has nearly 640 million tonnes of coal reserves. Mining of coal by hand has been going on in Meghalaya for over 150 years, mostly for local use. Large-scale illegal and indiscriminate mining of the coal by private landowners and the local community started nearly three decades ago.

Most of these mines employ minors, some from neighbouring states and Nepal as well; the miners work many metres underground in unsafe conditions, mining coal with their bare hands.

First Published: Dec 31, 2018 13:36 IST