More than a month after the rescue operations began, the Meghalaya state government and the Central government Monday assured the Supreme Court that it is not abandoning the efforts, news agency ANI reported. The 15 miners are trapped inside an illegal rat-hole mine in Meghalaya’s East Jaintia Hills since December 13, 2018.
A multi-agency operation, that includes NDRF officials, Odisha Fire Department, Indian Navy and other experts are involved in the rescue operations. A team of Indian divers, last week, had spotted the body of one of the 15 miners.
Efforts to retrieve the decomposed body were, however, suspended after the “oo much disintegration” took place with “every pull,” the Indian Navy said in a statement. The body was detected at a depth of 160 feet and at a lateral distance of 210 feet in a rat-hole tunnel with the help of footage from an underwater remotely operated vehicle (ROV), officials said.
“The Navy today suspended the pulling of the remains, which they had been trying since yesterday evening, as too much disintegration (of the body) took place with every pull by the ROV jaw,” operation spokesperson R Susngi told news agency PTI. The Navy had earlier said that there is a probability of the body breaking into pieces and disintegrating if attempts are made to retrieve it
However, the families of those trapped inside since December 13, 2018, now at least want their bodies recovered — even if it’s just a finger, a hand or a leg.
Meghalaya Chief Minister Conrad Sangma said the retrieval is difficult because of two reasons – the Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) which detected it cannot pull it out because the body is too heavy for it and it is not possible for rescue divers to go inside the mine because of the water level. Also, Sangma said the body was decomposing. “The body is soft. Every time they are trying to pull it’s coming off some pieces,” Sangma had said.
Sangma said since December 26, about 2 crore litres of water had been pumped out, but “the water level has not gone down”. In the last 46 hours, the Coal India had pumped out over 52 lakh litres of water from the nearby abandoned mines, but it was not enough to bring down the water level that was causing hindrances in the rescue work, Susngi said. The Kirloskar Brothers Limited, which has also joined the rescue efforts, had managed to pump out over 45 lakh litres of water, he said, adding that the Odisha Fire Services had pumped out approximately 4.5 lakh litres.