Guwahati: Naval divers on Thursday succeeded in detecting a body in the flooded illegal rat-hole mine in East Jaintia Hills of Meghalaya where 15 miners have been trapped since December 13.
The divers detected the body using “underwater remotely operated vehicles (ROV) at a depth of approximately 160 feet and 210 feet” in the mine, a Navy spokesperson said on Twitter and attached video grabs of the operation.
The body has been pulled up to the mouth of the 370-feet-deep mine and will be extricated under the supervision of doctors, the officials said.
A joint rescue operation involving local workers, National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) and the Indian Navy, among others, with some equipment flown in from outside the state, has been on at the illegal rat-hole mine at Khloo Ryngksan in Meghalaya’s East Jaintia Hills district since December end.
Sources engaged in rescue operations told this newspaper that the agencies, including the NDRF and the Navy, were desperately looking for information on the rat-hole mines, at the bottom of the flooded main pit.
“We requested district administration to call Sayeb Ali, the survivor who managed to get out on December 13 with at least three others just in time before the flooding,” the official said.
“It was with the help of their inputs that Navy divers could spot the body in the rat-hole,” said an official.
According to the five miners who made it out alive, one of the workers could have accidentally punctured the walls of a nearby abandoned and flooded the mine.
In the Khloo-Ryngksan area, where the mine is located on the western side of a small hillock, the Lytein river criss-crosses the valley for over two km. Deputy commissioner of east Jaintia Hills, F.M. Dopth, said that there are at least 80-100 flooded and abandoned mines in the area.
The Supreme Court has rapped the Meghalaya government over the slow progress of the search operation and inaction on illegal mines.
Indicating that underwater ROV would start search beyond 160 feet inside the rat-hole mine where first body has been detected, sources said that rescuers had been trying to pump out water from the mine, for which high-powered pumps were flown in from Odisha, but did not meet with much success. The Navy then pressed into service the underwater remote operated vehicle to spot the miners.
Admitting that chances of survival of miners are bleak, sources said that these rat-hole mines have no provision of wind-pockets or sirens for emergency situation.