Guwahati: The families of 15 miners trapped inside a flooded “rat-hole” mine in Meghalaya’s East Jaintia Hills have lost hope to see them alive again but state administration has roped in another 14-member team comprising noted hydrologists from Chennai and Hyderabad to join the rescue operations.
Informing that 14-member team includes Mr Sudhir Kumar of Hydrological Investigations Division at National Institute of Hydrology, Roorkee are going to join the rescue efforts, sources said that experts are expected to arrive the accident site on Sunday.
More than 120 people are now at the site, including personnel from disaster management agencies and experts from a major state-controlled coal company.
Even after ongoing operation to pump out water for last 15 days, the fate of the miners remains unknown as no blueprint of tunnels, which are now filled with frigid water from the nearby Lytein river, exists.
People in the frontier states recall the incident about a year back when 12 boys and their soccer coach were trapped in a flooded cave in Thailand, the dramatic bid to rescue them riveted that nation and the world. However, they regret that mining accident in Meghalaya initially drew little attention, while the rescue effort has been plagued by delays and difficulties. Some social activists point out that even Indian Parliament was in session but Parliamentarians failed to find time to bring in a simple reference on 15-trapped miners.
The helpless Justina Dkhar is the mother of two men from the nearby village of Lumthari who were trapped in the mine.
She said that her sons, ages 20 and 22, did not normally work in the coal mine but took the job to earn more money ahead of Christmas. “Now I only hope to retrieve their bodies,” Dkhar told reporters. Her 22-year-old nephew was also trapped in the mine.
Krishna Limbu said it was unlikely that even a miracle would save his brother-in-law, 21-year-old Assh Bahadur Limbu. “I just wish that they retrieve the bodies for us to perform the last rites,” he added.
A team of Indian navy divers is stationed at the site for last 15 days, but because of the depth of the water in the main shaft of the mine, which extends down 350 feet, it has been unable to explore the tunnels. Water filled the shaft halfway up, and despite the use of pumps, it remains too deep for divers to operate.
Sources engaged in the rescue operation said that new 14-member team is also bringing Remote Underwater Vehicle of different dimension to carry out the search of trapped miners.
“There is no substantial decrease in the water level to date,” said S.K. Singh, an assistant commandant with the National Disaster Response Force who is part of the rescue effort. He declined to comment on the miners’ chances of survival, saying that the government is making “its best efforts” and that “we are still hopeful.”