Divers of the National Disaster Response Force attempting to rescue 15 miners trapped for two weeks in an illegal rat-hole mine in Meghalaya said on Wednesday that a “foul odour” was emanating from the mine, The Indian Express reported.
“That is not a good sign,” said Santosh Singh, who is heading the rescue operations. While he declined to comment any more on it, unidentified NDRF personnel told the newspaper that “foul odour” indicates that the miners are dead and the bodies are beginning to decompose.
However, Singh said foul odour could also be because of stagnated water. “Foul smell could be a result of the fact that pumping has stopped since Monday and water is stagnating,” Singh said, according to the Hindustan Times.
According to officials, moving pumps to the accident site may take another three to four days. “They are big pumps and are being mobilised from Asansol, Dhanbad, Nagpur, Bilaspur and will come by road. They will take three to four days to get to the spot,” General Manager North Eastern Coalfields JK Borah told the newspaper.
The National Disaster Response Force’s efforts to rescue them have been marred by the lack of effective equipment. Singh had earlier told Scroll.in that they require at least 10 pumps of 100 horsepower each to pump out the water. Two 25-horsepower pumps have been used since Monday to pump out the water but they have proved to be ineffective.
An official said that Coal India received an assistance request from Shillong only on late Wednesday afternoon, the Hindustan Times reported. JK Borah, the general manager of North Eastern Coalfields, said the state government has sought “10 pumps, pipes, assistance for survey and other technical assistance if needed”.
“Coal India is already mobilising these resources from its sites in Asansol, Dhanbad, Bilaspur and other areas and let’s see how much resources we can spare,” Borah added. “We will try to help them as much as we can.” A team from the firm will reach the state on Thursday, reported NDTV.
The Congress has criticised the state government and Prime Minister Narendra Modi of not moving fast enough to help the trapped miners. On Wednesday, Congress President Rahul Gandhi said Modi was “posing for cameras” on Bogibeel Bridge while the miners were struggling to breathe.
On December 17, Chief Minister Conrad Sangma said he had spoken to Union Minister of State for Home Affairs Kiren Rijiju about the matter on the day of the incident. On December 22, PTI quoted Sangma as saying that the state government had requested Coal India for high-power pumps.
Sangma was in New Delhi on Wednesday to apprise the Centre of the rescue work. “I have been monitoring the rescue operations on almost a daily basis,” he told News18 when asked about the alleged government apathy. “That is the reason we know what’s happening at the grassroots level. The efforts are on in full swing. But the water level is so extreme that it is creating problems for us.”
He said he was not disappointed with the Centre’s response. “We have been given support,” Sangma added. “The NDRF has been sent in full force, as I said. It is just that the situation is very tough.”