Meghalaya mine: C-130J Super Hercules lands at Guwahati with tools from Odisha Fire Service
Guwahati/New Delhi: Several trucks loaded with 10 heavy pumps are heading towards a rat-hole mine in Meghalaya where 15 men are trapped for three weeks. A heavy-lift transport plane of the Air Force carrying the 10 high-power pumps landed this morning at Guwahati airport. The trucks will cover a distance of 220 km to the mine in Meghalaya's East Jaintia Hills in as short time as possible, sources said. Fifteen Navy divers have also been airlifted from Visakhapatnam to join the rescue operations in Meghalaya; they are expected at the site within 12 hours. Low-capacity pumps used by the National Disaster Response Force or NDRF turned out ineffective in extracting water from the collapsed mine. Senior NDRF officials said water from an adjacent abandoned mine and a nearby river kept flooding the rat-hole mine, making it unsafe for their divers to operate. The high-power pumps arrived three weeks after the mine collapsed on December 13.
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- The 15-member diving team of the Navy from Visakhapatnam are carrying specialised diving equipment including a re-compression chamber and remotely operated vehicles capable of searching underwater. An initial assessment to determine an effective response was undertaken by the Navy today.
- Personnel of the Odisha Fire Service and the National Disaster Response Force brought the heavy pumps from Bhubaneswar in Odisha in a Lockheed Martin C-130J Super Hercules of the Air Force. The mission to airlift the equipment came three weeks after the incident.
- It took a week for the district commissioner at East Jaintia Hills to send a letter to the Meghalaya government for acquiring powerful pumps, sources said. Nearly another week went by before Coal India Ltd, the world's largest coal miner with expertise in operating heavy pumps, got word for help, they said.
- Coal India is sending eight high-capacity pumps from its mines across the country; the farthest place from where a pump is coming is Bilaspur in Chhattisgarh, which will take three-four days to arrive, news agency PTI reported quoting general manager of North Eastern Coalfields, J Bora. They are being transported by road, sources said. These special pumps are not available even in Coal India's mine in Upper Assam, nearer to Meghalaya.
- A team of heavy pump-maker Kirloskar Brothers Ltd is at the mine on a survey mission, sources said. Ten pumps of the company are being transported to the mine, PTI reported. Powerful pumps manufactured by the Indian company were used to save 12 boys trapped in a Thai cave in July. "...We hope all miners are rescued safely," Kirloskar Brothers said in a statement.
- NDRF divers who went down to the flooded mine reported foul smell on Thursday, raising concerns it could be from decomposed bodies. NDRF officials at the site, however, said they are not certain whether the foul smell is of decomposed bodies as it could be from stagnant water, which has not been pumped out for days.
- The NDRF divers are waiting for the water level in the rat-hole mine to fall from 70 feet to 40 feet, the level at which their divers can operate. "It is one of the most challenging operations in the history of the NDRF. Our divers are not trained for this kind of a situation," NDRF Commandant SK Sastri told NDTV. He is leading the 1st Battalion of the NDRF for the rescue operation at East Jaintia Hills.
- The Meghalaya government led by Chief Minister Conrad Sangma denied allegations by the main opposition Congress that it handled the crisis in a "sloppy" manner. Mr Sangma said it was not prudent to "play politics" on such a sensitive issue. "There is no question of calling off the rescue operation; it is only going to be taken up at a different level now..." the chief minister told NDTV.
- Congress president Rahul Gandhi also taunted Prime Minister Narendra Modi in a tweet, accusing him of posing for photographs while the miners remained trapped in precarious conditions.
- Mining was banned in mineral-rich Meghalaya in 2014 after people said it was polluting water bodies. But the practice continues with locals illegally extracting coal using dangerous "rat-hole" mines, which means digging into the side of hills and then burrowing horizontal tunnels to reach a coal seam.
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