Competition of saving lives underground in Telangana

Known as the International Mine Rescue Competition (IMRC), the seemingly dangerous sports event has been going on biennially since 1998.
The rescue team of Singareni Collieries Company Limited (SCCL).
The rescue team of Singareni Collieries Company Limited (SCCL).Photo | Express

HYDERABAD: While a photograph of sweat dripping from the brow of a miner can hardly capture the immense hardships and dangers of working underground, the dramatic rescues of trapped miners often make for compelling movies. Surprisingly, these rescues have evolved into a full-fledged competition with miners from around the world taking part in it.

Known as the International Mine Rescue Competition (IMRC), the seemingly dangerous sports event has been going on biennially since 1998. The tourney also features the Indian sides of Telangana-based Singareni Collieries Company Limited (SCCL) and Coal India, as they are members of the organising association known as International Mines Rescue Body (IMRB). The body was constituted after the death of six workers in a mine in Poland in 1998 to have additional cooperation on mine rescue issues.

In a mine rescue competition, a team is tested on its emergency response capability in an underground mine through various events. These teams are trained and equipped to deal with hazardous situations such as explosions, rockfalls, the release of toxic gases, and the influx of water and fires.

Speaking to TNIE, deputy manager Bhaskar Reddy, who has also been a member of the team, says, “The IMRC and other championships are simulated based on the situations we face in real-time rescues. An underground mine is created, and obstacles are made. The only difference is the involvement of lives and property; both are at stake in real-time rescues.”

Almost eight different events are held to test the skills of rescuers. These are theory exams, first aid, underground firefighting and mine rescue, high-angle rope rescue, patient rescue and technician tests. Based on the performances of teams in these events, a cumulative score is prepared, and the top three positions are declared.

The SCCL team finished seventh in the 2022 IMRC held at Beckley, West Virginia, US, where 22 teams from nine nations competed. The championship was won by MSHA MEU of the US.

Meanwhile, having proven its mettle nationally, where it has won a total of nine championships, the SCCL team is now gearing up for the 12th IMRC scheduled in the South American country of Colombia in September.

On the national stage, the team has won nine All India Mines Rescue Competitions against the likes of Coal India and Hindustan Zinc Limited. It has also been the defending champion in the past two years: 2023 and 2022. Madhava Rao, superintendent of Mines Rescue Station, tells TNIE, “We have also completed two hattricks of winning the national championship and are gearing up for the third one, likely to be in December this year in Dhanbad.”

The company has a strength of around 500 trained rescuers among its permanent staff of 42,000. “On a day-to-day basis, they also work in different departments as technicians, electricians and other roles. But they are all well-versed in the expertise of a rescuer. From time to time, zonal competitions are organised among the company to choose the best rescuers to prepare for national and international competitions,” says Madhava.

Ahead of the Colombia IMRC, which will be its 13th overall, the SCCL rescuers are putting in extra effort to polish their firefighting skills.”While nationals have a rescue parade, the IMRC have a firefighting event. From the experience of the 2022 tournament, we felt a need to improve in this area. Firefighting equipment was purchased by the department, and the services of local fire departments were also available for training,” he adds.

Madhava is hoping that the team will further its position from last time. “Finishing seventh in 2024 IMRC was also an achievement in itself as that was our best position to date,” he adds.

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