The stink from a coal mine in Meghalaya where 15 diggers have been trapped for nearly a fortnight could be of stagnant water, said rescuers on Thursday, rejecting media reports that the men could have died.
Rescuers from the Indian Air Force (IAF) and Coal India are expected to reach the 370-foot-deep illegal mine in East Jaintia Hills district on Friday and they will be aided by two teams from Kirloskar Brothers Ltd, a pipe company.
Rescue operation was suspended on December 22 after pumping didn’t reduce water in the mine.
The National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) on Thursday denied media reports that the "foul odour" its divers had detected indicated the miners could have died.
The NDRF battalion, which is carrying out the rescue operation, said the statement of its Assistant Commandant Santosh Kumar Singh had been "misinterpreted and he was misquoted as saying that foul odour could indicate that the miners were dead and the bodies are beginning to decompose."
He said two teams of NDRF are engaged in the rescue operation. Meanwhile, sources said Meghalaya Chief Minister Conrad K Sangma discussed the incident with Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh in Delhi Thursday. The details of the meeting were not available.
Senior state minister Lakmen Rymbui and Disaster Management Minister Kyrmen Shylla are scheduled to visit the site on Thursday. The visit comes after the Opposition Congress accused the ruling coalition and Sangma of being insensitive to the plight of the miners.
Meghalaya is ruled by National People's Party-Bharatiya Janata Party coalition. Congress president Rahul Gandhi on Wednesday urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to help rescue the miners. He had also attacked him, saying while Modi was strutting on a bridge, the trapped miners were struggling for air.
Congress party sources said a group of MLAs are scheduled their visit to the mine in Lumthari village Friday.
Rebuffing the charge of inaction, Chief Minister Sangma told a television channel, "It's not the time to play politics. There is no question of calling off the operation. The operation is going to go to a different level now."