Special Correspondent

Chances of survival of those who may have been trapped is virtually nil, it says

  • Government closely monitoring the situation: Buddhadeb
  • "No response" from Central Industrial Security Force

    KOLKATA: The Army has decided against going ahead with rescue operations in an abandoned coal pit in the Neturia area of West Bengal's Purulia district. It believes that the chances of survival of those who may have been trapped is virtually nil, six days after water submerged the pit and flooded its depths.

    There is no "official record" of the number of persons who may be trapped but the Dhanbad district administration in adjoining Jharkhand has informed the authorities in Purulia that 10 persons have been reported missing at Nirsa Thana, District Magistrate, Purulia, D Bandhopadhyay, told The Hindu over telephone on Monday.

    It is suspected that they could be among those trapped inside the mine whose walls have caved in.

    Unconfirmed reports, however, say that the number of those trapped inside the mine could be higher.

    Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee said the State Government was closely monitoring the situation. Basudev Acharya, local Communist Party of India (Marxist) MP, was coordinating rescue attempts, he added.

    The decision of the Army not to undertake rescue operations has been conveyed to the Purulia district administration, a senior Army official said here.

    A similar request to the Central Industrial Security Force also met with "no response," Mr. Bandhopadhyay said.

    The mine was abandoned by private owners prior to 1970. Illegal extraction of coal from such mines in the region was a regular occurrence.

    Water level rising

    An assessment of the situation was made following a visit to the site by two officials of the Territorial Army who informed the authorities that the water level in the 180-foot pit had risen to nearly 150 feet, even as swirling waters from the Damodar and Barakar rivers kept gushing into the pit.

    Toxic fumes were emanating from the pit, the Army authorities were informed.

    After calling off their first rescue operation two days ago because of the steadily rising water level inside the pit, the authorities of the Eastern Coalfield Limited made a second attempt by trying to pump out the water, according to Mr. Bandhopadhyay.