Water in coal mine delays search for trapped miners

SHILLONG, June 3: Inclement weather and 150 feet of accumulated water prevented the rescue team, spearheaded by the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), from entering the coal pit at Umpleng on Thursday where five miners have been trapped since Sunday evening.
East Jaintia Hills Deputy Commissioner, E. Kharmalki informed that the NDRF team arrived at the spot at around 9.30 am and, three hours later, descended the vertical pit and measured the water level of the coal mine on Thursday. As per the team, the 500-ft vertical pit is filled with 150 ft of water. Any rescue would be possible only after water is pumped out.
Kharmalki said that three pumps have been continuously pumping out water but they would need to requisition at least 10 more pumps to speed up the process before divers can make an attempt to go down the vertical pit and enter the horizontal mines where the labourers are believed to be trapped.
“We have written to Coal India Limited (CIL) to provide their water pumps for the rescue operations,” he said.
The deputy commissioner also informed that they will need to mark the water level adding that this is required to know if the water level comes down when they are pumping out the water from the coal pit.
It may be mentioned 35 NDRF personnel had arrived at Khliehriat on Wednesday night to assist in the rescue efforts.
A team of State Disaster Response Force (SDRF) and the Special Rescue Team (SRT) of the Fire and Emergency Service had begun the search operations on May 31.
Mine owner surrenders
Home Minister Lahkmen Rymbui on Thursday revealed that Shining Langstang, 37, the owner of the abandoned coal mine where the miners are trapped, had surrendered on Wednesday night. Langstang, a resident of Sutnga Pohshnong village, was presented before the Court on Thursday and was remanded in judicial custody.
Lauding the police for identifying those involved in the illegal mining, Rymbui informed that five people have been questioned so far and their statements recorded.
“An FIR has also been filed in this connection,” he said, while adding that police have issued a lookout notice for the Sirdar (contractor of the labourers) Nizamuddin Ali who is on the run.
Rymbui said that the East Khasi Hills Deputy Commissioner has already ordered a magisterial inquiry into this incident.
Informing reporters that he along with Revenue and Disaster Management Minister, Kyrmen Shylla had visited the abandoned coal mine along with the IG (Law and Order) on Wednesday, Rymbui said the SDRF team had managed to go down inside the coal pit and measured the water level to be around 152 feet.
Rymbui admitted that the continuous downpour was hampering rescue efforts and it would be extremely difficult to either pull out the miners or their bodies.
Meanwhile, a case has been registered against six co-workers of the trapped miners, who survived the accident, for partaking in illegal mining activities.
They have been escorted to their homes in Assam, East Jaintia Hills SP, JS Dhanoa said, adding that they will not be arrested if they cooperate with police and appear as and when called for.

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