A team of six Indian Navy divers that went down the main shaft (over 300-feet deep) of the ill-fated coal mine in Meghalaya’s East Jaintia Hills district on Sunday made little progress, as the multi-agency rescue work at the site entered its second day.
The effort of the Navy divers was to attempt to reach the base of the mine, crossing the water column and find out how many “rat-hole” horizontal tunnels are there in which the workers are feared to be dead.
NDRF Assistant commandant Santosh Singh said Sunday evening the divers were not able to reach the bottom, but have surveyed the basement and will drop equipment to get an idea of the depth of the tunnel on Monday.
Meanwhile, a team of the Odisha Fire Services, which reached the spot on Saturday, began coordinating with the NDRF and the Navy.
The team from Odisha had brought 10 powerful pumps, which have not been set up yet.
“We couldn’t use the pumps first because that would have released carbon doixide and carbon monoxide in the shaft, which would have hindered movement of the Navy divers,” said Sukanta Sethi, the Odisha team chief.
NDRF’s Singh said its divers were not able to go inside since December 13 because the water level could not be reduced to less than 40 feet because the pumps did not have enough power. “Now Navy divers have been able to go in into the existing water column, which is deeper than earlier assessments, and the process to pump out the water will also begin simultaneously,” Singh said.
Sources in the NDRF said that though the initial assessment of the water column’s depth was 70 feet, measurements Sunday suggest it to be around 120 feet, making pumping out water harder.