Families of trapped miners lose hope, rescuers struggle dewatering coalpit in Meghalaya

Khliehriat/Shillong (Meghalaya): The families of the trapped miners inside a flooded coal pit for 21 days now in Meghalaya on Wednesday said they are giving up on them being alive even as rescuers struggle to dewater the pit.

“We have lost all hope to see him alive again. I just wish they retrieve the bodies of my sons so that we can solemnly perform their last rites and pray for them,” said Krishna Limbu, the brother-in-law Assh Bahadur Limbu, who is among those trapped in the mine.

Assh, 21, a native of Assam’s Karbi Anglong district, is one of at least 15 miners trapped inside the flooded illegal coalmine at Ksan village in East Jaintia Hills district since December 13.

“It is only God’s wish, if he still wishes them to be alive. It is 21 days now and the water level in the pit is not receding despite Odisha fire services personnel pumping out the water since yesterday (Monday),” he told IANS.

“Like the other family members of those trapped miners, I too have lost all hope,” says Krishna, sobbing.

Rescue Operations spokesperson, Reginald Susngi, said that Odisha firefighters have drained out 7.20 lakh litres of water in six hours on Wednesday from an old shaft near the main one, where the miners are trapped.

He said the water level in the old shaft has receded by one feet and 4 inches. “However, the water level in the main shaft will be determined only after the Indian Navy divers measure the water level,” Sunsgi said.

On Monday, Indian Navy divers had located a wooden structure, coal lying beneath and one rat hole with coal at its mouth inside the flooded mine. They had requested for dewatering the flooded mine so that the divers could dive to the bottom of the 370-ft-coal pit.

A high-capacity submersible pump of Coal India Limited that can pump out 500 gallon of water per minute has arrived at the site and is ready to dewater the old shaft on Thursday.

India’s leading pump manufacturer, Kriloskar Brothers Limited (KBL), which was roped in by Thailand government in rescuing 12 young Thai footballers and their coach from a flooded cave, has joined in with four specialized high-capacity dewatering pumps.

“Our specialized high-capacity dewatering pumps reached the site. Installation works are on,” KBL’s Project manager, N . Mahapatra told IANS.

Describing the rescue operation as “very slow”, mining expert and award-winning rescuer Jaswant Singh Gill on Wednesday said, “There is no coordination at all. Safety of the human lives is most important. In this kind of an emergency situation, we expect they should work like a machine and synchronise like a machine.”

“They need to get the mining map to know from where the water has entered the coalmine … there are many abandoned flooded coalmines and those boys (trapped miners) have punctured into the wall of another abandoned mine,” Gill told IANS.

The accident inside the illegal coal pit on December 13 was of significance, especially because the National Green Tribunal (NGT) had ordered an interim ban on “rat-hole” coal mining in the state effective April 17, 2014.

Chief Minister Conrad Sangma had promised that “appropriate action will be taken at appropriate time against the people who are involved in the illegal mining.”