Rescuers works on as 15 miners were trapped inside a coal pit filled with gallons of water in Meghalaya’s East Jaintia Hills district on December 13 2018. (IANS photo)
In one of the most difficult rescue operations in recent times, the Indian Air Force, Indian Navy and the Coal India teams joined the NDRF to save the 15 miners trapped inside the 370-feet-deep coal pit located in East Jaintia district on Saturday. Though rescue op gained momentum over the weekend, however, it seems it is too late and too little. The latest media reports say that just three helmets have been recovered from the mine. There is no sign of any survivor so far. The Ksan mine near Lytein river is flooded with 70-feet of water. The disaster is sign of flourishing illegal mining sector in the state.
Local reports say that such disaster take place every year. Some have also said that children as young as 8 are also employed. Problem is that most of these miners are illegal immigrants. Some experts have also slammed the authorities for acting very late. The Indian Navy was called in only after a fortnight despite that fact that it has the expertise in deep diving and necessary equipment.
The Indian Air Force reached the site with 20 pumps on Friday. The heavy-lift transport plane flew in these pumps. According to the Press Trust of India, the mine is located on top of a hillock fully covered with trees. To reach the mine, a person has to pass the 30-foot wide Lytein river three times. No habitation was found nearby and 80-90 illegal coal mines dot the area.
The mine is owned by Krip Schullet, a local who has been arrested since the incident came to the administration's knowledge, state officials said. The incident has become a political issue after Congress president Rahul Gandhi tweeted about it and urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to help save the miners.
Meanwhile, the NDRF battalion based in Guwahati, which is carrying out the rescue operation, said the statement of its Assistant Commandant Santosh Kumar Singh on "foul smell" had been "misinterpreted and he was misquoted as saying that foul odour could indicate that the miners were dead and the bodies are beginning to decompose." The NDRF explained the foul smell could be of the stagnant water. "The fact is that the pumping process has been halted for more than 48 hours. The foul smell detected by the divers may be due to stagnant water. The same has been misinterpreted and newspapers quoted it saying the odour could indicate the miners are dead and bodies are beginning to decompose," the statement issued by Commandant of Guwahati-based NDRF Battalion S K Shastri said.
(With PTI inputs)