A 15-member team of Indian Navy divers and 21 firefighters from Odisha have Meghalaya's Ksan village on Saturday to assist the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) rescuers in evacuating 15 miners who are trapped inside a flooded illegal coal pit for over two weeks now.
The district administration has temporarily suspended pumping of water from the coal pit since December 24 with the two 25 horsepower pumps became ineffective due to continuous operations.
Nevertheless, an NDRF rescue team dived inside the main shaft of the coal pit, but could not locate any of the miners.
Surveyors and mining technical experts of Coal India Limited (CIL) began surveying the tragedy site before dewatering lakh gallons of water from the 370-feet coal pit.
A project manager of Kirloskar Brothers Limited told IANS that India's leading pump manufacturing company has already dispatched 10 high-capacity pumping machines to the site.
The CIL is also planning to airlift its high capacity submersible pumps of 100 horsepower each that can pump out 500 gallons of water per minute from various locations to Guwahati airport and thereby transporting by road to Ksan village in East Jaintia Hills district.
NDRF's Assistant Commandant, Santosh Kumar Singh briefed Lieutenant Commander Khetwal, the team leader of the Indian Navy Divers and Sukant Sethi, Chief Fire Officer of Odisha Fire Services on the rescue operation conducted so far by NDRF and State Disaster Response Force (SDRF) rescuers in the past 17 days.
"I have updated them (Indian Navy and Odisha Fire Services) on our rescue operations and the equipment, including SONAR system used by us to locate the trapped miners but it did yield positive results," Singh told IANS.
Requisitioned by National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), the Odisha firefighters equipped with several high-tech equipment, including 10 high-power pumps reached the tragedy site after travelling 220 km from Guwahati airport.
The biggest challenge for the rescuers to evacuate the trapped miners to the higher grounds from day one of the rescue operations was the non-availability of the "mining map or blueprint" with the district authorities.
"We don't have the mining map. This is going to be a very tough challenge for all of us," General Manager of CIL's Northeastern Coalfields J. Borah told IANS.
"Six of the eight submersible pumps of 100 horsepower each are on the way to the site from Nagpur, Bilaspur, Dhanbad and Ranchi. We are also planning to airlift the pumping machines to Guwahati airport," Borah said.
Meghalaya Police arrested Jrin alias Krip Chulet, the owner of the coal mine from Narwan village. Police said that a hunt is on to arrest the other members, including the manager of the illegal coal mine.
Chief Minister Conrad Sangma had met Home Minister Rajnath Singh and Coal Minister Piyush Goyal and sought immediate Central support to evacuate the trapped miners.
Sangma had also promised that "appropriate action will be taken at appropriate time against the people who are involved in the illegal mining and this is not acceptable to us".