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A day before the New Year, rescue team are running against time as they are searching for 15 men, who got trapped in Meghalaya’s rat-hole mine in East Jaintia Hills for the past 18-days. On Sunday, Navy divers went down into the rat-hole mine had descended again into the flooded labyrinth to search for survivors today, said the officials.

A joint team of NDRF (National Disaster Response Force), Odisha Fire Service and the Navy are running the rescue operation.

The Navy will position a remotely operated vehicle in the ‘rat-hole’ mine to evaluate it if their divers can reach the pit or not.

On Sunday, the Navy had lowered an inflatable boat into the ‘rat-hole’ to examine for the possibility of diving deeper. NDRF continued that its divers can safely operate up to 40-feet of water.

Odisha Fire Service had further tested their machines and prepared themselves to move their pumps to the other abandoned hole for pumping out water. The local power department had brought generators to drive the pumps.

On December 13, the illegal mine got collapsed after water from an adjacent abandoned mine and a nearby river had flooded the ‘rat-hole’ mine.

The Navy divers went inside the mine at 3 pm and came out at 6 pm had reported that the hole was too deep and dark, and the level of water was at 150-feet, added the officials. Therefore, they could only dive till 90-feet and the rest remained undiscovered. They also requested to fix more halogen bulbs inside the hole for better visibility.

All the three operating teams, NDRF, Navy, and OFS will coordinate the operation on Tuesday. While the extra water is being pumped out, said the Navy personnel and will use the powerful equipment to dive deep into the mine.

Necessary equipment like- cutting machines and recovery vans have been brought at the spot. Coal India Limited pumps have also reached the site.

In 2014, mining was already banned in mineral-rich state Meghalaya after people reported it was polluting water bodies. But the operation continued with local illegally extracting coal using the dangerous “rat-hole” mines that mean digging into the hillside and then burrowing horizontal tunnels to reach coal steam.

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