On Day 18, Navy Divers To Attempt Deep Search In Meghalaya Rat-Hole Mine

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Meghalaya: All the three teams – Navy, NDRF and OFS – will coordinate the operation today

Guwahati/New Delhi:

A day before New Year, rescuers are running against time as they look for 15 men trapped in a rat-hole mine in Meghalaya East Jaintia Hills for the last 18 days. Navy divers who went down into the mine on Sunday will descend again into the flooded labyrinth to search for survivors, officials said.

A joint team of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), the Navy and the Odisha Fire Service is running the rescue operation.

On Sunday, they lowered an inflatable boat into the shaft to check for possibility of diving deeper. The NDRF has said its divers can operate safely up to 40 feet of water.

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The Odisha Fire Service also tested their machines and prepared to move their pumps to the other abandoned shafts for pumping out water. The local power department brought generators to drive the pumps.

The illegal mine collapsed on December 13 after water from an adjacent abandoned mine and a nearby river flooded the rat-hole mine.

The Navy divers who went inside the mine at 3 pm and came out at 6 pm reported that the shaft was too deep and dark, and the water level was at 150 feet, officials said. They could dive only till 90 feet.

They requested to fix more halogen bulbs inside the shaft for better visibility.

All the three teams — Navy, NDRF and OFS — will coordinate the operation today. While water is being pumped out, the Navy personnel will use powerful equipment to dive their way deep into the mine.

Tools like gas-cutting machines and recovery vans have been brought at the site.

Coal India Ltd is unable to start rescue operations as its team needs sophisticated material not available in Shillong. It has asked its head office to bring the material.

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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