Rescue operations at the illegal coal mine in East Jaintia Hills in Meghalaya Credit: EastMojo image

Shillong: Following the failure of the government to provide the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) with high-power water pumps, Kirloskar Brothers Limited (KBL), a Pune-based pump manufacturing company, has now come forward to lend a helping hand to the state.

Expressing concern about the 14 miners who have been trapped in a ‘rat-hole’ mine in Meghalaya’s East Jaintia Hills district since December 13, Kirloaskar took to Twitter on Wednesday and said that it was “ready to help in whichever way possible”.

Incidentally, KBL was also involved in the iconic Thailand cave rescue mission, wherein 12 young footballers and their coach were rescued. Experts from the firm provided technical support and its ‘dewatering’ pumps were used in the rescue operations. KBL had also offered to provide four specialised high-capacity Autoprime dewatering pumps, which were kept ready at Kirloskarvadi plant in Maharashtra to be airlifted to Thailand for the same mission. However, the footballers were already rescued by then.

Meanwhile, the search and rescue operation continued to remain suspended on Thursday after the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), State Disaster Response Fund (SDRF) and civil personnel decided to call it off on Monday following their inability to pump out water from the illegal coal mine.

The NDRF had been demanding a 100-hp motor pump from the government, as they were only provided with three 25-hp pumps, which had proved to be ineffective in pumping out water from the mine.

But, isn’t it a little too late now?

The NDRF, which has been on the site carrying out search and rescue operations since December 14, have reportedly pointed out to a foul smell coming out of the mine. Although the NDRF personnel refused to comment any further on the issue, it can be taken as an indication that the miners might not have survived in the mine filled with water after all.

Since the authorities were finding it difficult to identify the exact source of water, the NDRF had requisitioned for a geological surveyor to study the site. However, experts from Coal India Limited (CIL) had later pointed out that water from Lytein river, which flows about 800 mt from the mining site, has entered the mine.

Search and rescue operations were suspended on Monday after the authorities failed to pump out water from the ill-fated mine in Meghalaya’s East Jaintia Hills

Meanwhile, Meghalaya chief minister Conrad K Sangma, who is being criticised for not being able to rescue the trapped miners, and has shied away from addressing the media on the incident, said, “The situation is very difficult. Almost 20 lakh litres of water has already been pumped out.”

When asked about the operations being called off despite the fact the miners are still trapped, Sangma said, “There is no question of calling off the operation, now it is going to go to a different level. The MHA is in touch and is helping us a lot.”

Highlighting the important role played by the KBL in the dewatering operations during the devastating Kerala floods, and criticising the government for its lackadaisical attitude, Congress leader Shashi Tharoor and journalist Rajdeep Sardesai took to Twitter on Thursday.

Earlier, on Wednesday, Congress president Rahul Gandhi flagged his concern about the trapped miners by contrasting it with PM Narendra Modi’s inauguration of Bogibeel bridge in Assam, on his Twitter handle. This was sharply reacted by Union minister of state for home affairs Kiren Rijiju.

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