The Indian Air Force (IAF) on Friday flew in to join the rescue operations at the coal mine in Meghalaya’s East Jaintia Hills where 15 miners have been trapped for over two weeks.

IAF spokesman Wing Commander Ratnakar Singh said a C-130J Super Hercules has been tasked to airlift NDRF rescuers from Bhubaneswar to Guwahati.

The plane carrying high-power pumps took off from Odisha for Guwahati in Assam, from where the equipment will be taken to the rat-hole mine in Meghalaya.

The miners have been trapped in the mine since December 13 after it got flooded.

The Central government also rushed an additional National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) team to Meghalaya to assist the state in evacuating the miners.

Coal India Limited (CIL) officials have rushed to the site in remote Ksan area in East Jaintia Hills district.

A 10-member team, including four engineers and six surveyors, are at the spot. However, the equipment including pumps, pipes and survey tools will take some time to arrive as those are being sent by road from different CIL establishments.

General Manager of CIL’s Northeastern Coalfields, J Borah had earlier said the operation will be launched soon after all the equipment and manpower arrives at the site.

“We have received a request from the Meghalaya government to help carry out search and rescue operations in the coal mine where some miners were trapped. Immediately we have mobilised the manpower within the organisation so as to reach the site as soon as possible,” said Borah, who arrived at the site on Thursday along with two other top officials of CIL.

A two-member team from Kirloskar Brothers’ Limited has already reached the site.

“We have been to the mining site on Thursday and made preliminary assessment along with the NDRF team. We have discussed plans and strategies with the NDRF and State administration how to dewater from the pit,” N. Mahapatra of Kirloskar Brothers’ Limited, told IANS.

“We require a good number of powerful pumps to suck out the water and this has been informed to our senior officials,” he said.

The district administration has temporarily suspended pumping of water from the coal pit since December 24. However, the NDRF rescuers team dived inside the main shaft of the coal pit but could not locate any of the miners.

The NDRF, the State Disaster Rescue Force (SDRF) and the district administration have been trying to rescue the trapped miners but to no avail as the water level in the mine remained very high despite pumps being used to flush out the water.

Mining expert Jaswant Singh Gill had also visited the mine recently at the request of the Meghalaya government and suggested plugging the water entry points to the mine and using powerful pumps to drain out the water from the rat hole mine.

About 20 miners on December 13 entered the quarry owned by Krip Chullet. After reaching the bottom of the pit, they entered horizontal manholes, often termed as ‘rat-holes’, as each just about fits one person. Five persons were able to climb out of the flooded mine, leaving the others behind.

Meanwhile, the Opposition Congress has criticised the state government for its “failure” to rescue the trapped miners.

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The incident gains significance, especially after the National Green Tribunal (NGT) had ordered an interim ban on “rat-hole” coal mining in the state from April 17, 2014.