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As 15 Miners Suffocate in Meghalaya Mine, Govt Sits on Week-Old Request for New Water Pumps

The rescue team needs 10 pumps of 100 horsepower each to pump out the water, but has only two of 25 horsepower at its disposal.


Updated:December 26, 2018, 10:34 PM IST
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New Delhi: It has been six days since the office of Deputy Commissioner, East Jaintia Hills wrote to the state government asking for 10 high power pumps and other equipment in order to fast-track the process of sucking water out of the rat-hole mine where 15 miners have been stuck for the last two weeks. However, any action is yet to be taken.

Meanwhile, the mine is filled with 70 feet of river water.

According to a report by Scroll, SK Shastri, the commandant of the battalion leading the operation, had also written to the Centre asking for equipment, which is yet to be answered.

“All the experts and experienced people are of the view that we would be requiring at least 10 pumps of 100 horsepower each to pump out the water,” Shastri said. Currently, the rescue team has two pumps of 25 horsepower at its disposal.

News18 has reviewed the letter which says that there is requirement of four different sets of equipment in order to expedite the process.

The miners have been trapped in the illegal rat-hole mine in East Jaintia Hills district since December 13 after water from a nearby river flooded it. The mine is filled with 70 feet of water, making it inaccessible to the rescue workers.

“NDRF can go in only when the water is pumped out,” Shastri said. “We tried diving into the water, but there is just too much water.”

Rat-hole mining of coal is a technique that entails digging small vertical pits to reach the mineral and carving narrow sideways tunnels to move it underground. It was banned in Meghalaya in 2014 by the National Green Tribunal as it did not follow regulations. But activists allege coal continues to be mined illegally and this incident appears to be proof of that.

Meghalaya Chief Minister Conrad K Sangma had on Saturday said time was running out for the miners trapped inside a 370-foot illegal coal mine since December 13 and in its last ditch effort to save them, the state government has sought high-power submersible pumps from the Coal India Ltd.

He said the state government has written to the Coal India seeking their special pumps (high-power submersible pumps) to aid the rescue of the 15 miners in Lumthari area of East Jaintia Hills district.

“We are running out of time and I hope they respond to the request. We are waiting,” he said.

The miners were trapped after water from the nearby Lytein river gushed into the illegal rat-hole mine at Ksan area in Lumthari village.

According to villagers, one of the diggers could have accidentally punctured the walls of the cave and the river water gushed in immediately, trapping the miners inside.

Only five persons managed to climb out of the mine. Of them, two are locals and the police are after the remaining three who had fled to West Garo Hills district.

One person has been arrested in the case so far and the police are on the lookout for the mine owner, the SP said.

The arrested person, identified as Krip Chullet, was allegedly involved in hiring labourers, overseeing the work and sending them down the shaft.

The Meghalaya government had sought the Union Home Ministry’s help to rescue the miners. The NDRF teams, which are involved in the rescue operation, had earlier suggested the district administration to ask the Oil & Natural Gas Corporation to deploy submersible water pumps to reduce the water level.

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| Edited by: Nitya Thirumalai
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