No change in water level as Meghalaya mine rescue operation enters 22nd day

The Navy and NDRF divers waited all day Thursday to resume rescue work but could not since the water level remained unchanged in the 370-feet-deep shaft in Meghalaya's East Jaintia Hills district where 15 miners are trapped since December 13.

During the day, the Supreme Court expressed strong dissatisfaction over the rescue efforts to trace those trapped inside the illegal mine in Lumthari village for 22 days, telling the state government to bring them out dead or alive.

There was some progress Thursday in dewatering the nearby mines, which rescuers believe might be connected with the main shaft, with the help of three high powered pumps pressed into service by the Odisha Fire and Disaster Service personnel.

At 5:10 pm when the pumping stopped, the water level in one mine went down by another six inches, operation spokesman R Susngi told PTI. The water level had lowered by 16 inches in this mine on Wednesday.

While in the next abandoned mine, where pumping began in the afternoon on Thursday, the water level went down by 13 inches, he added.

Rigorous pumping of water from the nearby abandoned mines is expected to begin Friday as two more high powered pumps from Kirloskar Brothers Ltd arrived during the day, Susngi said.

A high powered submersible pump from Coal India Ltd will also begin pumping on Friday as the preparations to lower it inside the shaft took longer than expected, he said.

The multi-agency operation, however, failed to make any headway in reducing the water level in the main shaft, resulting in undue delay in the efforts to rescue the trapped miners.

The services of the rescue divers from the Indian Navy and the NDRF could not be utilised as the water level was above the safe diving limit of 30 metres. The search and rescue operations were halted for the night.

They waited all day but since there was no change in the water level, they could not dive in, Susngi said.

The spokesman said the divers would resume operations once the water level in the main shaft decreases to about 100 feet from its current level of over 160 feet.

Authorities said there were at least 90 abandoned mine shafts in the area and they were filled with water. Rescuers believe that these nearby mines might be interconnected and draining out water in these mines could help in reducing the water level in the main shaft.

Even after a lapse of 22 days, no contact has been established with the trapped miners. It is still not clear if they have access to food and drinking water.

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