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Fate of trapped Meghalaya miners uncertain, Navy divers set to join rescue operation

IAF, Coal India Limited and Kirloskar Brothers' Limited are already part of the rescue team trying to bring out the 15 stranded miners from the illegal coal mine in Jaintia Hills district.

Fate of trapped Meghalaya miners uncertain, Navy divers set to join rescue operation

Indian Navy divers were on Friday airlifted from Vishakhapatnam to join operations to rescue the miners who have been trapped in a Meghalaya coal mine since the last sixteen days. The Navy has confirmed that the divers will join the ongoing operation on Saturday morning.

Navy spokesman said in a tweet that a 15-member diving team from Visakhapatnam in Andhra Pradesh will reach the site in the remote Lumthari village in East Jaintia Hills district Saturday morning.

"The team is carrying specialised diving equipment including a re-compression chamber and remotely operated vehicles capable of searching underwater," he said. The Navy carried out an initial assessment on Friday to determine an effective response.

The miners are trapped in a 370-foot-deep illegal coal mine in the Ksan area of Lumthari village in Meghalaya since December 13.

The Indian Air Force (IAF), Coal India Limited (CIL) and leading pump manufacturing company Kirloskar Brothers' Limited are already a part of the rescue team trying to bring out the 15 stranded miners from the illegal coal mine in Jaintia Hills district.

 Kirloskar Brothers Ltd and Coal India were jointly moving 18 high-powered pumps to drain water out of the 37-foot-deep mine. A team of surveyers from the two companies also conducted an on-the-spot assessment of the situation, reported news agency PTI.

A team of the Odisha Fire Services had also left on Friday for Meghalaya to assist in the search and rescue of the 15 labourers trapped in a flooded rat-hole coal mine in the northeastern state. Director General of Fire Services BK Sharma had said a 20-member team led by chief fire officer Sukanta Sethi left for Shillong in a special Indian Air Force aircraft with equipment, including high-power pumps.

"Get, set and go," Sharma tweeted as the selected members of the Odisha Fire Services team boarded the IAF plane. "They will assist local authorities in the rescue of the trapped coal miners," he said.

Stating that the team was carrying high-power pumps, an official said each pump is capable of flushing out 1,600 litre water per minute. The fire services personnel are also armed with several other high-tech equipment and gadgets for use during the rescue mission. The team will first study and analyse the situation at the site before working out plans for the search and rescue mission.

Meanwhile, PTI quoted official sources as saying that the Air Force has airlifted 10 pumps from Bhubaneswar. Its personnel have landed in Guwahati, 270 kilometres away from the coal mine.

Search operations had been suspended on Monday after which the Meghalaya government had requested high-pressure pumps to drain out the water. The two 25 hp pumps which was being used had been termed as inadequate by the NDRF. 

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.