Rescue operations to find 13 miners trapped in a coal mine in Meghalaya’s East Jaintia Hills resumed on Sunday, a day after Navy divers, Odisha Fire Services personnel and experts from other agencies reached the site, ANI reported. Navy divers entered the main pit of the flooded mine in the evening.

The miners have been trapped in the illegal rat-hole mine since December 13 after it got flooded by water from a nearby river. The mine is filled with 70 feet of water, which has made it inaccessible to rescue workers.

“Navy divers have gone inside,” former Coal India Ltd Engineer-in-Chief JS Gill told ANI. “Let’s see what is recovered by them. If nothing is recovered, then we’ll pump out the water. Pumps have arrived but generators have not.” He said it would take five days to remove the water. According to unidentified officials, the machines have to be assembled at the spot.

National Disaster Response Force Deputy Commandant Santosh Kumar Singh told the Hindustan Times that it will be a major breakthrough if the divers reach the bottom of the pit and find the number of lateral rat-holes. “After the initial two days, we figured out that the water level was not going down and we could not go beyond 30 feet of the 70 feet of water,” he said. “So if Navy divers get details of the bottom of the pit and the number of rat-holes, that will be very useful for the operation.”

The National Disaster Response Force had suspended the rescue operation a few days ago because of lack of equipment powerful enough to draw out the water. The authorities then ordered another search, deploying personnel from the Navy, Odisha Fire Services and Coal India Limited.

‘No way the trapped men will be alive’

A survivor of the accident on Saturday said that none of the trapped miners would be rescued alive, PTI reported. Sahib Ali was one of the five men who narrowly escaped the flooding. The other four have gone to their homes in West Garo Hills district, he said.

“There is no way the trapped men will be alive,” said Ali, who hails from Assam’s Chirang district. “How long can a person hold his breath underwater?”