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Meghalaya Mining Disaster: 3 helmets recovered as rescue operations resume

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Vizag, Dec 29: Three helmets were recovered from the Ksan mine near Lytein river where 15 miners have been trapped for the past 17 days. Rescue operations by Indian Navy divers commenced on Saturday. The miners have been trapped in the flooded rat-hole coal mine since December 13.

PTI file photo

The Navy spokesman had said in a tweet that a 15-member diving team from Visakhapatnam in Andhra Pradesh was on their way to the accident site in the remote Lumthari village in East Jaintia Hills district on Saturday morning.

"The team is carrying specialised diving equipment including a re-compression chamber and remotely operated vehicles capable of searching underwater," he said. The Navy carried out an initial assessment on Friday to determine an effective response.

Pump manufacturing company Kirloskar Brothers Ltd and Coal India were jointly moving 18 high-powered pumps to drain water out of the 37-foot-deep mine.

A team of surveyers from the two companies also conducted an on-the-spot assessment of the situation. They will submit a report to East Jaintia Hills district authorities on the technicalities about positioning pumps for effectively carrying the operation, officials at the site said.

The team would carry special diving equipment including a remote-operated vehicle capable of conducting underwater search.

The Air Force has airlifted 10 pumps from Bhubaneswar. Its personnel have landed in Guwahati, 270 kilometres away from the coal mine, official sources said.

Meanwhile, an Odisha fire service team equipped with more high-powered pumps reached Guwahati on Friday morning around 11:30am. But according to reports they have not been able to reach the site as they were not provided with transport by the state government.

They had to travel the remaining 225km to reach the site on their own and latest reports suggest they are still around 25 to 30km away from the spot.

The mine got flooded when water from the nearby Lytein river gushed into it on December 13, trapping the 15 diggers. According to PTI reporter the mine is located on top of a hillock fully covered with trees.

To reach the mine, a person has to pass the 30-foot wide Lytein river three times. No habitation was found nearby and 80-90 illegal coal mines dot the area.

Locals said that the illegal private mine was closed for a long time but opened for mining 2-3 days before the the miners were trapped on December 13. The mine is owned by Krip Schullet, a local who has been arrested since the incident came to the adminstration's knowledge, state officials said.

General Manager of North Eastern Coalfields J. Bora arrived with two officials of the company on Friday and they were followed by a 10-member team of experts of the Coal India (CIL) to the site to assess the situation, they said.

Bora said CIL is arranging eight high-powered pumps for the rescue operation.

"We are waiting for the initial 10 high-powered pumps. They will be brought here this evening," the superintendent of police said. The high-powered pumps will be transported by road from Guwahati till about two kilometres from the accident site. From there, vehicles have been requisitioned to carry them to the mine, a senior district official said.

Pumping of water from the mine was suspended on Saturday as there was no visible receding of the water level. The district authorities had written to the state government seeking high-powered pumps as the two 25 hp pumps, which were being used, were found to be inadequate, an official of the NDRF, which is involved in the rescue operation, said.

The incident has become a political issue after Congress president Rahul Gandhi tweeted about it and urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to help save the miners. Chief Minister Conrad K. Sangma met Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh in the national capital on Thursday.

OneIndia News (with PTI inputs)

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