An team of rescuers from Odisha left on Friday morning in a special aircraft of the Indian Air Force with 20 high-power pumps to assist in rescue operation in Meghalaya for 15 miners trapped for past 16 days.(Photo courtesy Fire Department , Odisha)
An team of rescuers from Odisha left on Friday morning in a special aircraft of the Indian Air Force with 20 high-power pumps to assist in rescue operation in Meghalaya for 15 miners trapped for past 16 days.(Photo courtesy Fire Department , Odisha)

Odisha team reaches Meghalaya, begins rescue operation for trapped miners

The team equipped with 10 high-powered pumps to flush out water from the mine 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.
By Utpal Parashar and David Laitphlang | Hindustan Times, Guwahati/Shillong
UPDATED ON DEC 29, 2018 02:30 PM IST

The 21-member Odisha team has finally reached Meghalaya, more than 24 hours after taking off from Bhubaneswar, to try and rescue 15 people trapped in a mine in East Jaintia Hills district .

The initial rescue operation to help the miners, trapped since December 13, 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.

(Click here for live updates on the trapped miners)

“By the time we reached a primary school (located 25 km from the mine) where we were supposed to spend the night it was 2:00 am on Saturday. There was no person from Meghalaya government’s side who helped us with basic needs,” Sethi said.

“There was no food, blankets or beds for the men to take few hours of rest. We are not used to such cold temperatures in Odisha and had to rush for our mission without carrying enough warm clothes and bedding,” he added.

READ: Too little, too late? Hopes faint as rescue teams rush to Meghalaya

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

HT caught up with additional chief secretary, PW Ingty to find out the reason for the delay but he couldn’t throw much light. “The team has just left and they’re on their way now,” he said over phone adding that since he was travelling he didn’t have much information.

When contacted, East Jaiñtia Hills district police chief Silvester Nongtnger said the onus of arranging vehicles etc. lies with the DC and not him. “Please ask the DC or the ADM in charge,” he told HT over phone from Khliehriat the district headquarters.

When asked if an option for a helipad was explored to further shorten the transportation time, Nongtnger said, “We have some feasible locations and I had already given the coordinates to the DC, I don’t know what happened next please ask him,” the SP responded.

READ: Families seek miracle at Meghalaya ‘rat hole’ mine

HT tried to reach out to the additional district magistrate SS Syiemlieh who is filling in for deputy commissioner FM Dopth who went on medical leave on December 26 but was asked to call back after an hour as he was very busy.

Meanwhile, the SP said nothing positive has emerged today and everything remains at standstill. “We are waiting for the team from Odisha and then only we can proceed on our next course of action after the personnel and pumps etc. reach here,” he added.

It is worth mentioning the apart from the district officials, no senior state government official or minister has visited the site in the past two weeks. On Friday, Peter Ingty, additional chief secretary, in-charge of disaster management also went on leave.

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