Two weeks have passed and 15 Meghalaya miners are still trapped in a coal mine in East Jaintia Hills district.
As the rescue operations continue, NDRF divers reported a “foul smell” on Wednesday. It has raised concerns that the miners could be dead and the bodies are beginning to decompose, according to The Indian Express.
However, according to another NDTV report, the officials at the site said they are not certain whether the foul smell is of decomposed bodies as it could be from stagnant water also.
The 15 miners have been trapped since 13 December, after the mine collapsed.
The NDTV report also said that rescue operations were halted on Tuesday. Chief Minister Conrad Sagma admitted on Wednesday that the rescue efforts had been stopped and that the state was waiting for high-powered pumps to draw out water from the mine.
Two low-capacity pumps used to draw water could not extract enough water for safe rescue operations, according to NDTV, as water from a nearby river and another abandoned mine kept flooding the rat-hole mine.
The small pumps had to be shut down as they were ineffective, the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) was quoted as saying in the report.
Pune-based Kirloskar Brothers Limited, a firm that had helped rescue the 12 boys of a Thailand football team in July, 2018, has offered to help in rescue operations.
Coal India team to reach today
Coal India Limited, on Wednesday, finally received a request for assistance sent by the state government on 20 December, reported Hindustan Times.
JK Borah, general manager North Eastern Coalfields, was quoted in the report as saying that the Meghalaya government has sought “10 pumps, pipes, assistance for survey and other technical assistance if needed”.
A team of Coal India will reach the state today, according to NDTV.
Congress president Rahul Gandhi on Wednesday launched a sharp attack on Prime Minister Narendra Modi saying the 15 trapped are struggling for air, while the PM “struts about” on Assam’s Bogibeel Bridge posing for cameras.
Asking Modi to “please save the miners”, Gandhi alleged the government was not organising high-pressure pumps needed for rescue operations.
The ruling NPP-BJP in Meghalaya on Wednesday said that the state government is making all efforts to rescue the trapped miners.
However, the ruling NPP-BJP combine in Meghalaya rejected Gandhi’s claims, saying the state government was making efforts to rescue them.
Meghalaya Chief Minister Conrad K Sangma, without mentioning Gandhi’s remarks, said there was no inaction and that the administration and the NDRF had really worked hard to trace the miners, but, unfortunately, the operation did not yield any result.
Union minister Kiren Rijiju also asked Gandhi not to do politics over the “tragedy”, saying the Centre has been helping the state government in its rescue efforts.
Rijiju also blamed the previous Congress government in Meghalaya for the “unsafe illegal minining activities” in the state.
(With PTI inputs)