Meghalaya Rescue Mission Into Action by Air Force

Rescue mission is heading forth towards Meghalaya Ksan village of East Jaintia Hills district to rescue to stranded people in the marooned illegal coal mine. A 21-member team of Odisha Fire Services will reach Meghalaya on Friday with high-powered dewatering pumps to assist local authorities in a fresh attempt to rescue the 15 miners.

With chances of their rescue becoming bleaker by the day, the Union ministry of home affairs on Thursday sought the help of Odisha Fire Services for sending its team of experienced professionals.

Director general of fire service and commandant general, home guards and director civil defence BK Sharma said the team led by chief fire officer Sukanta Sethi left on Friday morning in a special aircraft of the Indian Air Force with 20 high-power pumps.

“Each of the pumps can dewater 1,600 litres of water a minute and we hope the miners can be rescued. We are one of the few states that is experienced in handling such calamities. We could have gone much earlier, but the request from MHA came yesterday (Thursday),” said Sharma.

With time running out for the miners, the Odisha team could have left on Thursday evening but could not as the Shillong airport does not have night landing facilities.

This is the first time that the fire services team would test their skills in a coal mine filled with water. The fire services department has taken part in rescue operations in others states in the past as well.

On Thursday, an assessment team from Kirloskar Pumps (KBL) in Kolkata arrived at the remote site on Thursday evening after a request by Congress leader Shashi Tharoor, whose party is in the opposition in Meghalaya.

A Coal India team arrived in Shillong on Thursday and will visit the site on Friday for assessment. JK Borah, general manager, North Eastern Coalfields said “seven pumps have been mobilised by Coal India.” Officials said moving the other equipment to the site of the accident will take another three to four days.

Rescue teams at the site said that a foul smell emanating from the water on Wednesday reported by one of the divers was in all likelihood because of stagnation when the operation was suspended on Christmas Day.

“It has been fourteen days now. The chances of the trapped miners surviving are very slim,” acting additional district magistrate SS Syiemlieh said on Thursday.