The Indian Navy and Army on Friday temporarily withdrew from the rescue operations at a flooded coal mine in Meghalaya’s East Jaintia Hills district amid escalating tension between India and Pakistan, IANS reported. At least 15 miners were trapped in the illegal mine on December 13, and five bodies have been discovered so far.
The National Disaster Response Force, the State Disaster Response Force, and other agencies will continue the rescue operations at the mine.
“The Indian Navy divers have been called back to their respective naval bases in view of the current situation,” said an unidentified senior defence official. “They have been temporarily withdrawn.”
East Jaintia Hills district spokesperson R Susngi confirmed the development, the Hindustan Times reported. The 21-member Navy team that joined the rescue operations on December 29 left the site on Friday upon receiving “instruction from their high command”, he said.
Susngi further said that Army personnel, who had joined the rescue on January 29, will also leave Meghalaya on Saturday after “receiving a call from their higher authority”.
East Jaintia Hills deputy commissioner FM Dopth expressed his appreciation for the service provided by the Army and Navy personnel. “The district and the state as a whole is indebted to the services rendered by them,” he said.
Coal India, which has been helping to pump out water from the flooded mine, continued its operations on Friday. After 36 hours, it managed to pump out 48,60,000 litres of water, Northeast Now reported.
The rescue teams so far have retrieved two bodies, while three more have been detected by the Navy’s Underwater Remote Operated Vehicle. On Friday afternoon, the second body retrieved on February 27 was identified as that of Dimonme Dkhar of Meghalaya’s Lumthari village. It was handed over to his mother by the deputy commissioner.
The group of miners got trapped after river water entered the illegal rat hole mine in East Jaintia Hills district. The Supreme Court had last month told the Centre and the state government to continue rescue operations, even though the state told the bench that the trapped miners may have died.