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Navy Divers, NDRF, IAF Join Rescue Operation to Save Meghalaya Miners on Day 16

The central government decided to rush the additional NDRF team to assist in the evacuation even as hope for the rescue of the miners fades.

News18.com

Updated:December 28, 2018, 6:22 PM IST
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New Delhi: A group of Indian Navy divers are being taken by air from Vishakhapatnam to join operations to rescue 15 miners trapped in a flooded rat-hole coal mine in Meghalaya since December 13, official sources said on Friday.

The Navy divers will join ongoing rescue operations on Saturday morning.

Earlier in the day, the Indian Air Force deployed its heavy-lift transport plane to airlift NDRF rescuers from Bhubaneswar to Guwahati on Friday as well as carry equipment to the rat-hole mine in Meghalaya.

The central government decided to rush the additional NDRF team to assist in the evacuation even as hope for the rescue of the miners fades.

The Air Force decided to cooperate after receiving a request for help from the National Disaster Management Authority, but the question of whether it would be too little too late looms over the rescue op.

The IAF will take the rescue team and tools, including high-power pumps, to the airport in Guwahati, from where a 213km journey onward to the mine would have to be undertaken.

Low-capacity pumps used by the NDRF had turned out ineffective in extracting water from the collapsed mine. Senior officials said water from an adjacent abandoned mine and a nearby river kept flooding the mine, making it unsafe for their divers to operate.

The high-power pumps, 20 in number, are arriving after a long delay. The rescue team had asked for at least 10 high power pumps and other equipment to fast-track the process of sucking water out of the rat-hole mine eight days ago. The mine is filled with 70 feet of river water.

Rescuers from Coal India are also expected to reach the mine in East Jaintia Hills district on Friday. Two teams of a private pump manufacturing company, which has volunteered to provide equipment to drain out water from the rat-hole coal mine had arrived at the site on Thursday.

SP Sylvester Mongtynger said two teams from Kirloskar Brothers Ltd arrived Thursday to help in rescuing the miners trapped in the 370-foot-deep illegal mine.

A senior government official said they 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 search-and-rescue operation had to be suspended after water pumped out of the mine did not lead to a drop in the water level.

On Thursday, the National Disaster Response Force contradicted media reports which quoted it as saying that the trapped miners were suspected to be dead on the basis of the "foul odour" the force's divers had smelt when they had gone inside the mine.

The NDRF battalion based in Guwahati, which is carrying out the rescue operation, said the statement of its Assistant Commandant Santosh Kumar Singh on "foul smell" had been "misinterpreted and he was misquoted as saying that foul odour could indicate that the miners were dead and the bodies are beginning to decompose."

The NDRF explained the foul smell could be of the stagnant water.

Meanwhile, sources said Meghalaya Chief Minister Conrad K Sangma discussed the incident with Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh in Delhi Thursday. The details of the meeting were not available.

Senior state minister Lakmen Rymbui and Disaster Management Minister Kyrmen Shylla are scheduled to visit the site on Thursday. The visit comes after the Opposition Congress accused the ruling coalition and Sangma of being insensitive to the plight of the miners. Meghalaya is ruled by NPP-BJP coalition.

| Edited by: Aakarshuk Sarna
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