Search operations to rescue 15 people trapped in a flooded coal mine in Meghalaya’s East Jaintia Hills district were temporarily suspended on Monday, PTI reported. District Deputy Commissioner FM Dopth said the operations will resume once district authorities get access to more powerful pumps.

“We have temporarily suspended pumping of water out of the mine as the exercise did not yield any positive result,” Dopth said. “The water level has not subsided.”

The 15 were trapped in the 370-foot-deep mine after a river nearby gushed inside on December 13. Chief Minister Conrad Sangma on Saturday said the state government had sought special high-power submersible pumps from Coal India to rescue the miners. “We are running out of time and I hope they respond to the request,” he had said. “We are waiting.”

The current water level in the mine is about 70 feet, said National Disaster Response Force Assistant Commandant SK Singh. Superintendent of Police Sylvester Nongtynger said that at least 100 personnel of the National Disaster Response Force and the state disaster response force, as well as the police, were waiting for the water to recede by 30 feet before divers could be sent in.

While two pumps were at work, Sangma on Friday had said authorities would require at least 200 pumps to remove all the water.

Congress slams state government

The opposition Congress in Meghalaya on Monday criticised the state government for failing to rescue the trapped miners. “If the government of Thailand can launch an operation involving international search and rescue teams [to rescue the 13 trapped footballers], this government is not serious at all in rescuing trapped miners,” Congress spokesperson HM Shangpliang said.

The state government on December 22 had announced Rs 1 lakh interim relief to the family members of each of the 15 miners.

Shangpliang also claimed that none of the ministers, including the disaster management minister, had visited the disaster site. He also criticised the state government for allegedly promoting illegal coal mining in East Jaintia Hills district.