Meghalaya mine tragedy: Odisha Fire Services team returns home

Bhubaneswar: After a month of dedicated service, the 20-member team of Odisha Fire Services that was engaged in the operation to rescue 13 miners trapped at a flooded rat-hole coal mine in Meghalaya’s East Jaintia Hills returned to the State on Wednesday.

The fire personnel team after reaching Odisha said that they have gained a lot of experience by working with the air and naval forces in such harsh conditions. The team members further stated the rescue operation in Meghalaya was challenging in comparision to the operations that were carried out by them earlier in Odisha.

“There were many challenges in the operation. The Odisha Fire personnel along with the Indian Navy team recovered a body from the rat hole. The bodies were trapped some 500 square feet inside the flooded mine and the temperature was zero degree Celsius there. However, we are happy we were able to recover a body in such critical conditions,” said Deputy Fire Officer, Satyapir Behera after reaching the State.

“The Chief Secretary, District Collector and Deputy Commissioner of Meghalaya and other higher officials encouraged us a lot in our work and hailed us for our discipline,” added Behera.

The first body was reportedly detected inside the disaster-struck coal mine on January 17 and retrieved by the State fire personnel team along with Indian Navy, NDRF and other agencies on January 24. Similarly, the second body was spotted on January 26. However, it is yet to be recovered.

The fire services team from Odisha was sent to Meghalaya on December 28, 2018 to undertake rescue operation in the mines. The team had taken several high-tech equipment including high-power pumps to use in search and rescue operations.

It is pertinent to mention here that a coal mine in Ksan of Saipung area in Meghalaya’s East Jaintia Hills district collapsed and got flooded leaving at least 13 workers trapped on December 13 and since then the Meghalaya government along with NDRF and other agencies have been engaged in rescue operations with the help of a team of state-run Coal India Ltd.