Guwahati: A joint team of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), the Indian Navy and the Odisha Fire Service on Monday completed the survey of rat-hole mine and decided to send Navy divers once again into the flooded 370 feet-deep illegal coal mine in east Jaintia Hills where 15 miners are trapped since December 13. The Navy divers, who went inside the mine at 3 pm and came out at 6 pm on Sunday, reported that the shaft was too deep and dark, and while the water level was at 150 feet, they could dive only till 90 feet, officials said.
Navy officials said the search operations will be feasible when the water level comes down. The site was cleared for the Odisha Fire Service rescue team to start pumping water from the main shaft. The other shafts nearby are being prepared to enable the Odisha Fire Service to operate the pumping.
Saying despite the poor visibility, one rat-hole was also found with coal at its mouth as an underwater remotely-operated vehicle found that there are some wooden structure inside and coal lying beneath, the rescue operations’ spokesperson R. Susgni said: “Divers of the Indian Navy have entered the coal mine’s main shaft to survey the bottom of the sheet using the underwater remotely-operated vehicle.” Mr Susgni said: “We are carrying out these safety measures to rule out decompression sickness of the divers.” The Navy has also requested the district administration to assist in de-watering so that it comes down to 30 meters, or within the safe diving limit. One Coal India 100 horsepower pump also reached the accident site, but it may take at least two days to get it operational due to logistics issues, sources said. Saying the rescue team had also interacted with five survivors who narrowly escaped the flooding coal mine, sources said one of the miners, Sahib Ali from Assam, told the rescue team there was no way the trapped miners would come out alive.
The rescuers, who do not have any map of the rat-hole mine, have been trying to find out the exact location of miners inside the tunnel.