Underwater probe used to track 15 Meghalaya miners as hopes fade

Meghalaya: The Navy on Monday sent an underwater probe into a flooded mine in a bid to trace 15 miners who have been missing for more than two weeks, officials said.
The so-called “rat-hole” miners have been trapped since December 13 when water gushed into Ksan mine from a nearby river in the remote state of Meghalaya.
The navy has sent divers and search equipment to the mine after a public outcry over the slow pace of the rescue, with many of the miners’ families fearing it is now too late for them to be found.
Indian naval divers on Monday found wooden structure, coal and a rat-hole coal inside the 370-feet flooded coal mine with the help of an underwater remotely-operated vehicle (UROV) machine where 15 miners are trapped for the last 19 days in this remote Meghalaya village.
“Two divers dived beneath the surface of the coal mine with UROV and found that there are some wooden structure, coal lying beneath and one rat-hole with coal at its mouth after spending three hours inside the flooded mine,” said a spokesperson for the rescue operations, R Susngi.
He said none of trapped miners were located inside the coal mine. Susngi said that visibility was very poor.
“The Navy divers said that if the level of the water could be drained out further, the search for the trapped miners will be feasible,” the spokesperson said.
“At present the site is cleared for the Odisha firefighters to start draining out the water from the main shaft where the miners are trapped. The firefighters are setting the high-capacity 100 horsepower pumps in nearby abandoned mines to enable to operate the pumps,” Susngi said.
More than 200 rescuers, including 14 members of the Indian Navy, 72 NDRF rescuers, 21 Odisha firefighters, 35 Coal India Ltd officials besides a team of Meghalaya-owned State Disaster Response Force are deployed to carry out the rescue operations.
The General Manger of Coal India Ltd (Northeastern Coalfields), J A Borah, said one of the eight submersible pumps that drain out 500 gallon of water per minute had reached the area.
“Two more pumps will be reaching the site and another two tomorrow along with the auxiliary pipes and other materials which are not available in Jaintia Hills or Shillong,” Borah said.
Mining expert and award-winning rescuer Jaswant Singh Gill lamented on the lack of coordination between the state government and rescuing agencies.
“The rescue operations is very slow because lack of coordination from the state and central agencies. In this kind of an emergency situation, we expect they should work like a machine,” Gill said.
Gill, who shot to fame after he successfully rescued 64 miners from a flooded quarry in West Bengal in 1989, hoped that the trapped miners could be “rescued alive”.
— IANS