Firefighters from Odisha who have been engaged to rescue the trapped Meghalaya miners resumed dewatering the coal pit on Thursday. They are de-watering a shaft near the main shaft of the coal mine in Meghalaya’s East Jaintia Hills district where 15 miners have been trapped since December 13.

The tragedy came to light after five miners managed to escape the coal pit. The fate of the 15 miners trapped for 22 days now remains unknown, and any hope to find them alive is diminishing each day.

“No matter whether they are all dead, not dead or all alive, they should be taken out,” the Supreme Court said on Thursday.

Hearing a PIL seeking immediate steps to rescue the 15 miners, the apex court said it wasn’t satisfied with the rescue efforts. “We pray to God that all are alive,” it said, adding they should be brought out as “every minute counts”.  

“Odisha firefighters resumed pumping out water at 10 a.m. from the shaft which they dewatered on Wednesday,” IANS quoted Rescue Operations spokesperson Reginald Susngi as saying.

EDITORIAL | Ham-fisted operation

He said the water level at the shaft, which had receded by 1.4 feet on Wednesday, had increased again on Thursday morning. “To tackle this problem, the firefighters will operate one more pump to boost the dewatering process,” Susngi said.

He said Coal India Ltd was also expected to start dewatering work on Thursday. It will be operating a submersible high-capacity 100 horsepower pump.

The Odisha firefighters are equipped with high-tech equipment including 10 high-power pumps. They were deployed at the accident site in Khloo Ryngksan, known as Ksan village, by the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA).

Khloo Ryngksan is about 130 km from Meghalaya’s capital Shillong.

India’s leading pump manufacturer, Kriloskar Brothers Ltd (KBL), has joined in with four specialised high-capacity dewatering pumps.

“Our specialised high-capacity dewatering pumps reached the site. Installation works are on,” KBL Project manager N. Mahapatra told IANS.

KBL had been roped in by the Thailand government to rescue 12 young Thai footballers and their coach from a flooded cave last year.

On Monday, Indian Navy divers had gone inside the flooded mine but could locate only a wooden structure, some coal lying beneath and one rat hole with coal at its mouth. It was after they They wanted the flooded mine dewatered so that the divers could reach the bottom of the 370-feet deep coal pit.

More than 200 rescuers are taking part in the rescue operations.

It may be mentioned that the National Green Court had ordered an interim ban on ‘rat-hole’ coal mining in the state in 2014.

Hearing the PIL on Thursday, the SC judges asked why the government hadn’t ordered the Army to join the rescue operation. It also said the Centre’s law officer should be called so that the court could issue some interim directions to step up the operation.

The Meghalaya government had earlier told the court that the state had been taking steps since December 14 and deployed personnel from the NDRF, Navy and Coal India.

“Then, why are they not successful?” the court shot back, according to an ANI report.

(With agency inputs)