Water pumping starts in Meghalaya mine on 20th day

Water pumping starts in Meghalaya mine on 20th day

Navy and NDRF divers getting into a coal mine on Tuesday to check water level. Photo by Anuwar Ali Hazarika

As the search for the 15 miners stuck inside a flooded mine in Meghalaya entered 20th day, Odisha fire service personnel on Tuesday pumped out only six inches of water in three hours from a nearby abandoned mine.

The Odisha team, which reached the site on Sunday, started de-watering an abandoned mine from where water entered another shaft about 500 m away, in which the miners had reportedly dug 'rat holes' to extract coal on December 13. Water entered the 350-feet shaft after they probably cut its wall.

Many such shafts were abandoned since 2014 when the National Green Tribunal (NGT) banned coal mining in Meghalaya, citing adverse impact on the environment and lack of safety measures.

“A team of navy divers and NDRF personnel went down the shaft twice — once in the morning and again at 4.30 pm and checked the water level. The Odisha team will continue the de-watering drive tomorrow as well,” official spokesperson R Susngi said in a statement.

The de-watering started following a request by the Navy divers, who could not reach to the bottom of the shaft on Monday due to low visibility and to avoid decompression sickness.

The Navy divers on Monday sought de-watering the flooded Meghalaya mine after their Under Water Remote Operated Vehicle (UWROV) detected only a wooden structure and some coal inside the shaft.

The mishap site is situated at Ksan in East Jaintia Hills district, about 150-km east of Meghalaya's capital Shillong.

A 70-member NDRF rescue team is camping at the site since December 14, but their divers could not locate the trapped miners. The NDRF had on December 16 sought powerful pumps to drain out water from the flooded mine as their divers could not work below 30-feet of water. There is about 70-feet water in the coal mine at present.

“The NDRF team is also in assistance and standby with all their available resources to assist the Odisha fire service for installation of their pumps,” he said.

The Navy on Friday rushed a 15-member diving team from Vishakhapatnam-based Eastern Naval Command after the opposition parties including Congress chief Rahul Gandhi slammed the Centre and Prime Minister Narendra Modi for neglecting the search operation.