NEW DELHI: Indian Navy divers continued their search on Friday for missing miners trapped in a flooded coal mine located in Meghalaya's East Jaintia Hills. While the body of one miner was recovered on Thursday four are yet to be located.
Five miners were trapped after the mine got flooded on May 30 after a dynamite blast. Over 50 personnel from National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), State Disaster Response Force, District Disaster Response Force, Fire and Emergency Service and the police have been deployed at the site.
A 12-member Indian Navy diving team was pressed into action on 12th June to rescue the five miners.
The Navy sources said weather conditions and the physical conditions in the submerged zone of the mine have complicated the rescue operation.
"The current operation entails the Indian Navy divers to lower themselves and their specialised diving gear into an extremely narrow shaft to a depth of almost 400 feet and carry out diving up to further 100 feet, to search for trapped miners within a complicated interconnecting labyrinth of horizontal shafts, with barely enough space for a person to crawl."
The situation is aggravated due to incessant rains and low visibility but the divers are still continuing on the sixth day keeping the trauma of the families in mind.
"The divers assiduously continue with the search operation with the hope that any light at the end of the tunnel will bring lasting solace and closure to the families."
Diving operations are further challenged by poor underwater visibility, unmapped shaft construction hazards, flotsam and falling debris. Further, diving for prolonged durations in low temperatures (3-5 degree Celsius) pose significant medical risks such as hypothermia.
“While the divers have specialised equipment such as the Diver Hand Held Navigation System (DHNS) for bottom-mapping of the mine-shaft, any technology can do little to ameliorate the raw, gut-wrenching adversity that such an operation entails." added a source.
It may be recalled that the Indian Navy had assisted in the rescue and recovery effort of 15 miners trapped in a mine in Ksan, Meghalaya under similar conditions, in December 2018.
There has been a blanket ban on rat-hole coal mining across Meghalaya since the 2014 order of the National Green Tribunal.