Hours after the Centre and Odisha government rushed teams to help the 15 stranded miners stuck in a coal mine in Meghalaya's Jaintia Hills district, a Congress MP hinted that there is a strong chance that the miners might not be alive.
Speaking to news agency ANI, Congress Shillong MP Vincent H Pala said he came to know from the locals that there is no chance of survival inside the mines. He said he is "very sure that most of the people have died".
Taking a dig at the Centre he accused it of not taking the issue seriously in sending the pumps. He hoped that with the new pumps, that is expected to reach the accident site, the rescue teams will be able to pump the water out. The Congress MP added that it will take at least "2-3 days to retrieve the bodies".
"I’m very sure most people have died. I came to know from local people that there is no chance of people there, those who survive, they run away since the mining was illegal. Earlier the Central government did not take seriously in sending the pumps. I hope with the new pumps coming they will be able to pump water. It will take minimum 2-3 days then we will be able to retrieve the bodies," said Pala.
Earlier, the Indian Air Force (IAF), Coal India Limited (CIL) and leading pump manufacturing company Kirloskar Brothers' Limited joined the rescue effort.
Two teams from Kirloskar Brothers reached the site Thursday, 15 days after the tragedy struck. "We are deeply concerned about the trapped miners in Meghalaya and are ready to help in whichever way possible. We are in touch with the officials of the Government of Meghalaya to offer our assistance in this regard," Kirloskar Brothers Ltd said in a statement late Wednesday night.
IAF and CIL teams are expected to reach the mine on Friday. IAF spokesperson Wing Commander Ratnakar Singh said the National Disaster Management Authority has requested the IAF to airlift rescuers from Bhubaneswar to either Guwahati or Shillong airport on Friday.
A 10-member team, including four engineers and six surveyors, are on their way to the site. Two top CIL officials also expected to reach.
"We have received a request from the Meghalaya government to help carry out search and rescue operations in the coal mine where some miners were trapped. Immediately we have mobilised the manpower within the organisation so as to reach the site as soon as possible," said J Borah, General Manager of CIL`s Northeastern Coalfields.
However, the equipment including pumps, pipes and survey tools will take some time to arrive as those are being sent by road from different CIL establishments, said Borah adding that the operations will be launched soon after all the equipment and manpower arrives at the site.
Search operations, which hit a wall on Monday, remained suspended for the fourth day in a row with the Meghalaya government requesting high-pressure pumps to drain out the water.
The two 25 hp pumps currently being used is inadequate, said National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) Assistant Commandant SK Singh, who is heading the force in the operation.
NDRF also contradicted certain reports which claimed that the miners are suspected dead on the basis of the "foul odour" the rescue team encounters when they went inside the mine.
A senior government official told news agency PTI that the teams will assess the situation including the road condition leading to the mine in a remote area in the district and accordingly report to their office, which will then take a call on what equipment is required to launch a rescue operation.