New Delhi: It’s been 15 days since a rat-hole mine collapsed in Meghalaya’s East Jaintia Hills, trapping 15 people underground. On Friday, the Indian Air Force stepped in and is airlifting men and equipment.

Rescue operation underway

Rescuers from the IAF and Coal India reached the 370-foot-deep illegal mine in East Jaintia Hills district today and they will be aided by two teams from Kirloskar Brothers Ltd, a pipe company.

The Indian Air Force airlifted a 21-member NDRF team and a team of Odisha Fire Services with 10 high-powered pumps from Bhubaneswar to Guwahati.

WATCH: Meghalaya coal mine tragedy: Indian Air Force airlifts NDRF team with pumps in Guwahati

An Indian Air Force transport carrier ‘C-130J Super Hercules’ had carried the team from Bhubaneswar to Guwahati airport.

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Meghalaya Chief Minister Conrad K Sangma on Thursday had discussed the incident with Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh in Delhi.

Coal India is sending high-capacity pumps from its mines in Asansol in West Bengal and Dhanbad in Jharkhand.

The Air Force decided to cooperate after receiving a request for help from the National Disaster Management Authority.

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The rescue operation was suspended on December 22 after pumping didn’t reduce water in the mine.

Controversy over foul odour 

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.

Heavy pumps manufacturer Kirloskar Brothers Ltd has announced help in the search for the 15 miners who were trapped in the 370-foot-deep illegal coal mine.

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"We are deeply concerned about the trapped miners in Meghalaya and are ready to help in whichever way possible. We are in touch with the officials of the Government of Meghalaya to offer our assistance in this regard. We hope all miners are rescued safely," Kirloskar Brothers Ltd said in a statement.

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Unsafe mining

The National Green Tribunal had put a blanket ban on unscientific and unsafe mining of coal in Meghalaya since 2014 based on a petition filed by an NGO, alleging a river in Assam had become acidic due to the unregulated mining of coal here. But, illegal practices continue unabated in the state, putting lives at risk, said locals.

With inputs from Hemanta Nath