Guwahati: Five days have on, there still seems to be no headway in the search and rescue operation of the 13 labourers who are feared trapped inside an illegal coal mine in Meghalaya’s East Jaintia Hills. Although around 100 personnel from the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), State Disaster Response Force (SDRF) and civil defence have been working day and night since the tragedy happened on December 13, the fate of the victims continues to be unknown.
So, why has there been no progress so far? According to experts, water flowing into the mine from the river Lytein, which flows about 800 mt from the mining site, is coming in the way of rescue operations.
SK Shastri, commandant of the 1st Battalion of the NDRF, has said that although the rescue team has been pumping out water from the rat hole for the past three days, the water level continues to remain at 70 ft, as the amount of water flowing into the hole from the canals has been equal to the amount that is being pumped out with the eight motors that have been pressed into service.
“The mine is 320-ft deep and the water level is till at 70 ft. Yesterday, it came down to 69 ft. But today, it again rose to 70 ft. We were using three motors till Sunday, but today we are installing five more motors to pump out water. But even then, it would take three to four days to pump out the entire water,” added Shastri.
The Lytein river is only 800 mt from the mining site at Ksan in West Jaintia Hills and it is feared that many canals have joined the mining area through which water is continuously entering into the site.
Shastri added, “The water level of the mine is much higher than that of the river. It is getting extremely difficult for us to send our divers in search of miners trapped inside”.
Meanwhile, East Jaintia Hills SP Sylvester Nongtner, has said that police have found the report of one more person missing in the coal mine tragedy. He has been identified as Abdul Kalam from West Garo Hills. With this, the number of missing persons in the coal mine reported so far has risen to 14. However, eyewitness accounts say that there are a total of 17 people trapped inside the mine.
The Meghalaya government has now announced that it is taking the assistance of Coal India Limited (CIL) in the rescue operation. A delegation of CIL is on the spot and has started surveying and mapping the area.