Chief Vigilance Officer dies in Rajasthan's Khetri mine accident, 14 others rescued

The accident occurred when a lift's cable broke, causing it to plummet. Three officers suffered fractures in their legs, and several others sustained hand injuries.
The injured have been admitted to a private hospital for treatment.
The injured have been admitted to a private hospital for treatment.Photo | Special arrangement

JAIPUR: One senior official has died but 14 others were saved in the horrific Khetri copper mine accident in Rajasthan’s Jhunjhunu district which saw a lift collapse on Tuesday night, leaving 15 people trapped. After a rescue operation lasting about 13 hours which continued till the early hours of Wednesday morning, 14 people were saved.

However, the Chief Vigilance Officer from Kolkata, Upendra Pandey, died in the incident. Several other officials have also suffered serious injuries, including fractures and are being treated in hospitals in Jaipur.

The accident occurred when a lift's cable broke, causing it to plummet. Three officers suffered fractures in their legs, and several others sustained injuries to their hands.

District Collector Sharad Mehra provided information regarding the incident, stating that the deceased, Upendra Pandey, was part of the Kolkata Vigilance Team. Despite all efforts to save him, he succumbed to his injuries.

The exact cause of his death will be determined after a post-mortem examination. It is reported that Pandey experienced breathing difficulties after the fall. He was given oxygen while being rescued, but his condition deteriorated by the time he was brought out.

The officers were descending the lift to inspect the 1,800-foot-deep mine on Tuesday evening. The accident happened around 7:30 PM while they were ascending. The sudden lift cable break led to chaos, and a rescue operation was immediately launched by three teams.

Upon hearing of the incident, Khetri MLA Dharampal Gurjar promptly arrived at the site to assess the situation. Additionally, a State Disaster Response Force (SDRF) team from Jaipur was dispatched to assist with the rescue efforts. After about 13 hours of intense effort, 14 officers were rescued by Wednesday morning.

Rajasthan Chief Minister Bhajanlal Sharma made special efforts to save those trapped in the incident and asked officials to speed up the rescue efforts. He remarked, “Information was received about the accident caused by the breakage of the lift rope in the Kolihan mine of Hindustan Copper Limited in Khetri, Jhunjhunu. The concerned officials were instructed to immediately reach the spot and speed up the relief and rescue operations and provide all possible help and health facilities to the affected.”

The officials who were trapped included Khetri Copper Complex unit head GD Gupta and Kolihan mine's Deputy General Manager AK Sharma. A journalist who had entered the mine as a photographer with the vigilance team was also trapped but fortunately all are now saved and out of danger.

Three officials who were the first to be rescued were sent to Jaipur’s SMS hospital. Five more were taken out in the second round, and the rest after that thus concluding the hectic four-phase overnight operation. An eight-member team comprising of doctors and nurses was sent inside the mine through the exit gate to provide medical help to those trapped.

An internal investigation committee will be formed by the Mining Department to determine the cause of the accident. The committee will investigate how the lift cable broke, identify any negligence, and pinpoint the mistakes made. The responsible parties will be held accountable.

The Khetri Copper Complex at Khetrinagar in Rajasthan (a unit of Hindustan Copper) was established in 1967 and officials are now taking all steps to bring normalcy and resume operations.

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