GUWAHATI: Personnel engaged in the search and rescue of at least 15 miners trapped in a rathole coal mine in East Jaintia Hills of Meghalaya since December 13, found a wooden structure, coal and mud inside the pit on Monday. Official sources said the site had been cleared for the Odisha Fire Service to begin pumping out water from the main shaft. The other shafts nearby are being prepared to keep the pumps of the Odisha Fire Service to enable pumping, they said.
“The Indian Navy entered the main shaft to survey the bottom of the shaft using an underwater remotely operated vehicle (UWROV). The Indian Navy divers came out after three hours. The UWROV found some wooden structure inside, and coal was also found lying beneath. The visibility is very poor, only around one foot at the bottom. Mud also was found.
One rat hole was found with coal at its mouth. The Indian Navy said when the level of water comes down, the search will be feasible. The Indian Navy has requested the district authorities to assist in dewatering so that the water level comes down to 30 metres or within the safe diving limits. Once it is done, the Navy will commence diving. The sources said these safety measures were being taken to rule out decompression sickness.
Two teams of the NDRF are providing logistics and human resources to the other agencies, including the Navy. The sources said the Odisha Fire Service was working to commence pumping out water from the nearby shafts. Two other agencies engaged in the operation are Coal India and State Disaster Response Force. Altogether around 200 personnel are involved.
At least 20 miners had entered the 380-foot coal mine on December 13. Five managed to come out after the pit was flooded. Saheb Ali, who is among the survivors, claimed that 22 miners, not 20, had entered the mine that day. He said the trapped miners should be dead by now.