An operation to rescue 15 miners trapped inside a flooded coal shaft in northeastern India has resumed with navy divers and heavy-duty pumps deployed in the effort.
The illegally excavated “rat-hole” in the East Jaintia Hills of Meghalaya state was inundated with floodwater from a nearby river on December 13, trapping the miners.
Rescue work has stalled since Tuesday as the pumps were not powerful enough to drain the water.
Chances of the miners’ survival looked remote on Sunday as broadcaster NDTV reported authorities had found nothing but three helmets at the scene.
Meghalaya Mine Rescue Operation: Navy Team Of Divers To Join Meghalaya Rescue Operation Today: 10 Points https://t.co/kROvsuu6wq pic.twitter.com/p12tGVDavM
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“Ten high-powered pumps have been transported while teams of navy divers and engineers have reached the remote site,” state disaster minister Kyrmen Shylla said.
“We will now try to drain out the water, so the divers can enter and locate the miners.
“It’s been 17 days since the incident and the chances of finding survivors are bleak, but we are still holding onto hope,” he added.
Expert engineer JS Gill told NDTV there was no air pocket in the main mineshaft and it could take up to a week to complete the operation.
Local divers had recently reported a foul smell emanating from the nearly 100-metre deep mine but were unsure whether it was emanating from decomposed bodies.
It is not the first time workers engaged in illegal mining have been trapped in Meghalaya.
At least 15 miners were killed in the state’s South Garo Hills district in 2012.
The bodies were never recovered.