"Thailand operation was easier as the entire cave was not flooded. Meghalaya mine is a closed mine and there is no other hole or chamber where the miners could take shelter. It is a single hole straight pit and water gushed in with force from the nearby river probably after they cut the wall," Gill told DH, over phone from Amritsar.
At least 13 miners got trapped on December 13 in a 250-feet deep coal mine pit near a river at Ksan in East Jaintia Hills district, about 130 km east of Meghalaya capital Shillong. NDRF personnel used boats, deep divers and sonars but the miners have remained untraced.
The Centre had rushed Gill as he had rescued at least 65 labourers trapped in a coal mine in West Bengal's Raniganj in November 1989. At least 71 miners got trapped in the Bengal mine but six drowned after water gushed in.
"The mine in Bengal was a little different. There was a safety chamber, where the miners managed to take shelter after water entered the pit. I got inside the pit around 2.30 am on November 16, 1989 and managed to bring them out one-by-one by using a steel capsule-like chamber," Gill said.
Miners still alive?
So, are the Meghalaya miners still alive? "Chances are very thin. We can only wait for a miracle," Gill said.
He had visited the site on December 16 and advised the NDRF rescuers to identify the water entry point, plug it and then use 100 HP pumps to drain the water. The NDRF accordingly requested the East Jaintia Hills district administration to provide at least 10 more powerful pumps as the two 25 horse power pumps could not push back 70-feet water since December 14. The request for the pumps was pending for the past nine days, prompting the NDRF to temporarily suspend their search on Monday.