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Rescue operations underway to trace 15 trapped Meghalaya miners; 3 helmets recovered

The miners are trapped in a 370-feet deep illegal mine in Lumthari village in the district since December 13, when water from the nearby River Lytein flooded the mine.

Rescue operations underway to trace 15 trapped Meghalaya miners; 3 helmets recovered
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At least three helmets were recovered on Saturday morning from the site of the coal mine accident in Meghalaya's East Jaintia Hills district where 15 miners are believed to be stranded for more than a fortnight.

The miners are trapped in a 370-feet deep illegal mine in Lumthari village in the district since December 13, when water from the nearby River Lytein flooded the mine.

Assistant Commandant Santosh Kumar Singh from the 1st Battalion of NDRF said: "Three helmets have been recovered."

Earlier, the search operations had been called off by the Meghalaya government as high-pressure pumps to help in the rescue were not available with the state government. After the state government requested high-pressure pumps to drain out the water, a 15-member diving team of the Indian Navy from Vishakhapatnam left for Meghalaya on Friday with specialised equipment, including high-pressure pumps.

The Indian Air Force (IAF) also provided two aircraft to the Meghalaya government for airlifting specialist personnel of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) from Odisha for helping in the rescue operations. The Defence Ministry has said it is prepared to provide any help to the state government.

The IAF, Coal India Limited (CIL) and leading pump manufacturing company Kirloskar Brothers' Limited had 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.

Singh on Friday told news agency ANI, "The situation is hopeful, the high-pressure pumps are arriving on site, I don`t want to comment on when they will arrive, but I am hopeful. The earlier pumps were not working well, so as soon as the pumps arrive, we are hopeful the water level will recede and we will further operate."

Earlier, 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.