NDRF personnel conduct a rescue task at the site of a coal mine collapse at Ksan, in Jaintia Hills district of Meghalaya
NDRF personnel at the site of the coal mine collapse at Ksan in East Jaintia Hills | PTI
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Indian Navy divers who went inside the 370-foot-deep pit found some wooden structures and coal lying at the bottom. 

New Delhi: The fate of at least 15 Meghalaya miners continues to hang in the balance, with rescue teams from the Indian Navy and the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) failing to make any headway because of rising water level inside the coal pit.

The miners have been trapped inside a rat-hole mine in the state’s remote East Jaintia Hills since 13 December.

The Indian Navy divers who went inside the 370-foot-deep coal pit Monday found some wooden structures and coal lying at the bottom.

“The Indian Navy has told the district administration that the search will be feasible only when the level of the water inside the mine comes down,” R. Susngi, deputy public relations officer in the Meghalaya government, told ThePrint from Shillong.

“They will resume their operation on Tuesday morning,” said Susngi.

Navy operations

The Indian Navy team deployed an underwater remotely operated vehicle, but the mine is currently filled with over 70 feet of water from the adjoining Lytien river.

“The divers on Monday also came across a rat-hole with coal at its mouth. The visibility inside is very poor,” said Susngi.

The Indian Air Force and the Navy were pressed into service after the Meghalaya government reached out to them last week with a request to help with advanced equipment and trained divers.

“The site has been cleared and the rescue team will deploy the high-powered pumps given by the Odisha fire service department to pump out water throughout the night,” said Susngi.

“We are hoping that the water level will go down by morning so that the Navy divers can resume their rescue operation,” he added.

Also read: No one is bothered because we are poor, say families of trapped Meghalaya miners

High water level hampers rescue efforts

The rescue operation at the site has been hampered because of the high water level.

The NDRF team deployed at the site from day one failed to make any breakthrough as two pumps provided by the district administration to pump out water proved completely ineffective.

Santosh Kumar Singh, assistant commandant of the 1st Battalion of NDRF who is heading the rescue operation, told ThePrint last week from the accident site that there wasn’t much that his men could do at the time.

The two pumps that were deployed for 16 days after the coal mine collapsed had a capacity to take out only 600 litres of water per minute.

Mining experts from Guwahati’s Directorate General of Mines Safety, who visited the spot for a survey, told the NDRF in a report that they needed pumps over three times as powerful, which can pump out 500 gallons, or nearly 1,900 litres, a minute.

Also read: 15 feared dead in coal mine: Come to Meghalaya to see just how ineffective NGT ban can be


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