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India steps up rescue efforts to save trapped coal miners in Meghalaya
Last Updated: 2018-12-29 11:04 | Xinhua
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Indian authorities Friday stepped up rescue efforts to save the 15 miners trapped inside a coal mine in northeastern state of Meghalaya for over two weeks, officials said.

A heavy-lift transport plane of Indian Air Force (IAF) Lockheed C-130 Hercules plane on Friday morning took off from Bhubaneswar, capital of Odisha state, carrying high-power pumps and other equipment for the aid of disaster response force personnel trying to reach out to the trapped miners in a rat-hole mine in Meghalaya.

The miners were trapped on Dec. 13 inside the mine, about 140 km east of Shillong, the capital city of Meghalaya.

Although the rescue efforts to save the trapped men began immediately, low-capacity pumps used by the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) personnel turned out ineffective in extracting water from the collapsed flooded coal mine.

Senior officials said water from an adjacent abandoned mine and a nearby river kept flooding the mine, making it unsafe for their divers to carry out searches in water.

Reports said the mine is filled with 70 feet of water.

"A 20-member team led by chief fire officer Sukanta Sethi left today in a special IAF plane with equipment to assist local authorities in Meghalaya to rescue the trapped coal miners," Director General of Fire Services in Odisha B. K. Sharma said.

The mission to airlift the heavy equipment comes 15 days after the incident.

Meghalaya is one of the mineral rich states in India and has nearly 640 million tons of coal reserves.

Activists say illegal coal mining is going on in the state despite a ban from India's environmental court National Green Tribunal (NGT) in 2014 on unscientific mining in the area.

Mine owners have since challenged the ban and some of their petitions are still pending in the India's top court.

Activists say "rat-hole" coal mining is widespread in the state, though illegal.

Experts say locals illegally extract coal using dangerous "rat-hole" mines, which means digging into the side of hills and then burrowing horizontal narrow tunnels to reach a coal deposit.

The locals mostly hire migrant laborers from neighboring states as "rat-hole" miners and these laborers readily agree to such dangerous work to earn money.

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