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Wednesday, October 13, 2010

KOLAR GOLD FIELDS - ROCK BURSTS / AIR BLASTS – THE KGF RESCUE TEAM

KGF ROCK BURSTS / AIR BLASTS –  THE KGF RESCUE TEAM

RESCUING MINERS TRAPPED UNDER GROUND

The thrilling mission to rescue and save the miners trapped in a Chilean Mine for 69 days has prompted me to write a small account about such similar instances in KGF.

There were several instances of tragic and fatal accidents inside the mines that left many workers physically handicapped and incapacitated. Several times, there was loss of lives due to the Rock Bursts or Air Blasts. The Rock Bursts during the 1920s and 30s and the massive Rock Burst in 1952, claimed many lives as quite a few miners were buried alive.When the Air Blasts occurred under ground, several miners would get trapped inside the tunnels and die due to suffocation and injuries. The passages and tunnels get blocked due to landslides.

The John Taylor and Sons Company   formed a dedicated rescue team which would immediately get into action to rescue workers trapped underground due to mining accidents and disasters such as rock bursts, fires, explosions, cave-ins, flooding of the mines etc. The KGF Mining Rescue Team was thus established in 1923. The Rescue Station was housed in a building quite close to the Oorgaum Station Railway crossing a short distance away from the Nandydroog Mine Offices. 

The Rescue Team was always on call 24 x 7, to attend to any emergencies both underground and on the surface. The team was well versed in all rescue procedures and specially trained to rescue miners trapped underground with minimum time loss. They were fully trained in rendering timely First Aid and in the use of the Proto Safety equipment, SABC Breathing sets etc, especially when the miners were suffocated due to lack of oxygen on account of landfalls, fire, smoke, toxic mine gases, etc.

The KGF Rescue Team was soon considered to be the best mining rescue team in the country and won many awards and citations. A picture of the team which won the Barraclough Challenge Shield in the All India Mines Rescue Competition in 1955 is appended hereto.



In the event of a fire breaking out or rock falls /caving in of the earth underground due to Rock Bursts, the workers would break small glass bottles of Eucalyptus Oil immediately. The strong smell of eucalyptus would quickly spread through all the tunnels underground thereby warning the miners working in other tunnels to quickly rush to higher safety levels, from where they could come up to the surface safely.

The Mines rescue team would then get into action to rescue the trapped workers. However, despite the best efforts of the Rescue team, sometimes flooding, fire outbreaks  and other accidents underground claimed many lives before the Rescue Team reached the spot. The family members of the workers trapped underground would wait for several hours outside the shafts, keeping their fingers crossed, to know the fate of their loved ones. The agony and mental suffering on their faces just couldn’t be explained in words.
However, as mine rescue is a particularly dangerous work, the rescue crews also risked their own lives to save their fellow workers. Sometimes they also suffered serious injuries and burns during their Rescue missions.

As children living in KGF Rock Bursts or Air Blasts were quite common occurrences for us and we learnt to live with them. We normally didn’t get frightened or worried when there were small ones. We just carried on with whatever we were doing at the time. However, sometimes these air blasts were quite huge in their intensity and they caused much damage to buildings and houses and also caused massive rock falls underground, sometimes even causing fatalities to the miners. We’d then rush out of the house to safety. Some times, buildings or houses got damaged during severe air blasts and people also suffered minor injuries because of the debris falling on them.

When I was about 5 years old, I remember waking up in the middle of the night to the sound of shattering window panes and bits of the roof tiles falling on my bed. My mum bundled us up in our cardigans and we ran into the garden and stayed there till the rumblings stopped. She would then make us all a hot drink of Bournvita and tucked us all back into bed. The next morning we could see all the debris that had fallen from the walls and roof due to the tremors of the air blast.

When I was studying in the 6th Standard in the St Joseph’s Convent School, there was a massive Air Blast at around eleven in the morning, and this caused a lot of damage to the school building. Bits of the ceiling fell down on us and huge cracks began to appear on the walls. The teachers quickly evacuated all the students and we assembled on the Basket Ball field in no time. Since the rumblings continued for a long time, the school declared a holiday and the school buses and vans were organized to take us all home. Due to the severe impact of the Air Blasts the school building was damaged quite a bit. The nuns undertook some immediate repairs and we were back in school in no time.

Every time there was an Air Blast, my mum would make us kneel down and say a prayer for the safety of the Miners trapped underground. Quite often my dad, who worked as an Underground Engineer in Nandydroog Mine, would also be on duty at the time of the Air Blast, and we would be quite tense till he returned home safely.

2 comments:

Ajit said...

This is fascinanting. During a reported rock burst in 2006 the Ministry sent a team from the IBM and Institute of Rock Mechanics to give a spot report. They said its no danger to people outside. Most of the mines are flooded now. Do you know if BGML continued with the 24 x 7 rescue team after 1972?

Bridget White-Kumar said...

Hi Ajit
The Rescue Team was in operation right upto the time the mines were finally closed. The KGF Rescue Team was considered the best Mining rescue Team in the country.Sad that the mines were shut and these experts were out of a job.