The multi-agency efforts to rescue miners did not yield any substantive result on the 23rd day of the operation on Friday, as the Navy and the National Disaster Response Force divers failed to venture inside the main shaft to search for the 15 trapped diggers with no visible change in the water level though they waited all day.
Photograph: PTI Photo
Sharing details about the day's exercise, operation spokesperson R Susngi said that the fire service from Odisha has completed pumping out 9 lakh litres of water in the nearby old shaft using two pumps before they stopped work at 5 pm.
Although the water level in the abandoned mines nearby went down, the water level at the main shaft has to reduce by about 60 feet from its current level of 160 feet before the rescue divers can operate safely, he said.
Pumping of water is stopped by 5 pm everyday due to the risks involved in handling the machines at night, Susngi said.
Meanwhile, the National Green Tribunal on Friday imposed a fine of whopping Rs 100 crore on the Meghalaya government for failing to curb illegal coal mining in the state.
A senior advocate, who is assisting the tribunal as an amicus curiae in the mining matter, said a report of a high-level committee was submitted on January 2 before a bench headed by NGT chairperson A K Goel.
The report stated that majority of the mines in the state were operating without a lease or licence.
The NGT imposed Rs 100 crore fine on the state government as a "deterrent" and for its "inaction" to curb illegal mining in the north eastern state.
The lawyer said during the hearing, the state government admitted that a large number of mines were operating illegally.
According to the operation spokesperson, the service of the search and rescue divers cannot be utilised at the 370 foot-deep shaft where the miners are trapped as there is no significant drop in water level.
Although Coal India Ltd got their pumps inserted in the abandoned mines in the afternoon, fitting and connection of pipes is going on, Susngi said.
Two pumps from major pump maker Kirloskar Brother Ltd are also inserted at the main shaft where the miners were trapped but fittings are not completed by the end of Friday, he said.
Divers from the Indian Navy will determine the water level at the main shaft once the pumps begin dewatering for at least 6 hours continuously as expected by Saturday, according to Susngi.
At least 15 miners were trapped in the 370 foot-deep illegal coal mine in Lumthari village of East Jaintia Hills district since December 13 and all efforts to pump the water out of flooded mine have been in vain.
The owner of the illegal rat-hole mine Krip Chullet was arrested on the evening of December 14.
The government has spent roughly over Rs 50 lakh for hiring various utilities to rescue the trapped miners.
On Thursday, the Supreme Court had expressed strong dissatisfaction over the rescue efforts to trace the miners and had asked the state government to bring them out dead or alive.