Over two weeks after a rat-hole mine collapsed in Meghalaya's East Jaintia Hills, trapping 15 people underground, the Indian Air Force has finally come forward to help. Air force is airlifting men and equipment including high power pumps of National Disaster Management Authority to Guwahati this morning. Kirloskar Brothers -- an Indian heavy equipment firm -- has offered to expedite the rescue operation by sending powerful pumps to draw water from the pit, and a team of experts from state-run Coal India Limited is being rushed to the spot to oversee the exercise.
On Thursday, divers detected a foul smell emanating from the pit, giving rise to fears that it could be from that of decomposing bodies below.
Mining was banned across mineral-rich Meghalaya in 2014 after environmentalists raised concerns of groundwater pollution. However, that did not deter local residents from illegally extracting coal on the sly through rat-hole mines, which involves digging into the side of hills and then burrowing horizontal tunnels to reach coal seams.
Here are the updates on Meghalaya rescue operation:
Low-capacity pumps used by the National Disaster Response Force or NDRF turned out ineffectual in extracting water from the collapsed mine.
An Indian Air Force C-130J transport aircraft has taken off from Bhubaneswar carrying NDRF personnel and equipment to help in the rescue efforts, news agency ANI said quoting a source.
The National Green Tribunal has banned unsafe coal mining in Meghalaya since 2014 based on a petition by an NGO, which had alleged that a river in Assam had become acidic due to unregulated mining of coal. But illegal mining continue in the state, putting lives at risk, say locals.
A group of Congress lawmakers are expected to visit the mine in Lumthari village today, party sources said.
Two teams from Kirloskar Brothers Ltd - the private pump manufacturing company, which has volunteered to provide equipment to drain out water from the rat-hole -- arrived at the site on December 27.
Superintendent of Police Sylvester Mongtynger said two teams from Kirloskar Brothers Ltd arrived on December 27 to help in rescuing the miners trapped in the 370-foot-deep illegal mine.
"We are deeply concerned about the trapped miners in Meghalaya and are ready to help in whichever way possible. We are in touch with the officials of the Government of Meghalaya to offer our assistance in this regard," Kirloskar Brothers Ltd said in a statement late on December 26.