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Day 16: IAF, Coal India, leading pump manufacturer Kirloskar Brothers rush in to rescue trapped Meghalaya miners

NDRF dismissed all reports of miners being dead

Day 16: IAF, Coal India, leading pump manufacturer Kirloskar Brothers rush in to rescue trapped Meghalaya miners

SHILLONG: The Indian Air Force (IAF), Coal India Limited (CIL) and leading pump manufacturing company Kirloskar Brothers' Limited have joined the rescue effort to find and bring out the 15 stranded miners from an illegal coal mine in Meghalaya's Jaintia Hills district.

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 are required to launch a rescue operation.

The ruling NPP-BJP (National People's Party-Bharatiya Janata Party) combine in Meghalaya said the state government was making all efforts to rescue the trapped miners.

Chief Minister Conrad Sangma confirmed that CIL and Kirloskar Brothers have offered their support to draw out the water from the 370-ft coal pit so that the rescuers can locate the trapped miners. 

"We are expecting that the Coal India Limited (CIL) will airlift their water pumps to the accident site by tomorrow (Friday). Their (CIL) team of engineers and surveyors arrived in the state and meeting the government officials," Sangma told IANS.

"The main challenge that the state is facing now is how to get the logistics. Nonetheless, we are in touch with the central government and we have been assured of all their support," he added.

However, the relatives of the trapped miners are losing hope and are expecting a miracle to occur.

"It has been fifteen days since December 13 when they got trapped inside the pit without air. If God is willing, they may come back alive," said Adil Hussain, who was camping at the mining site seeing the rescuers doing whatever they can to bring the miners out.

Mining expert Jaswant Singh Gill had also visited the mine recently at the request of the Meghalaya government and suggested plugging the water entry points to the mine and using powerful pumps to drain out the water from the rat hole mine.