The Supreme Court said that it is not satisfied with the efforts to rescue 15 men trapped in a coal mine in Meghalaya for over three weeks and asked the government to list the steps it plans to rescue the miners who have been trapped inside the mine since December 13. The top court was hearing a petition requesting for urgent steps as part of rescue efforts.
"Tell us by tomorrow(Friday), because for people who are trapped, every second counts," Justice Arjan Kumar Sikri told the Meghalaya government, represented by Solicitor-General Tushar Mehta.
"We're not satisfied with rescue operations. No matter whether they are all dead, some alive, few dead or all alive, they should be taken out. We pray to God they are alive," the Supreme Court said.
The operation to rescue 15 people, trapped in a 320-foot-deep illegal "rat-hole" mine in Meghalaya's East Jaintia Hills, has made little progress since it began a day after the miners went missing. Multiple teams, from the NDRF, Navy and firefighters, are on the ground, trying to make reach the miners.
The Meghalaya government told the court that nearly 86 people were working on the rescue effort since December 14, including employees of state-controlled Coal India Ltd, the world's biggest miner of the fuel.
The Navy and the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) divers could not go down the 370 foot-deep mine, even as draining out water from a nearby abandoned mine they believe may be connected to it continued, officials said.
The NDRF had contradicted reports which quoted it as saying that the trapped minors were suspected to be dead on the basis of a foul odour that its divers had encountered when they went inside the mine. It had said the foul smell could be due to the stagnant water in the mine as pumping had been halted for more than 48 hours.
Though a high-powered pump from Coal India Ltd were taken to the hilltop mine, they couldn't be ued till Tuesday because of logistical challenges. Leading pump manufacturer, Kirloskar Brothers, has also joined in with four specialised high-capacity pumps to remove the water.
The petition, filed through an advocate, sought directions to the centre and the state to utilise the services of the technical wing of the armed forces - Army, Navy and Air Force - in the operation to rescue the 15 miners.
The petition also sought a direction to the centre and other authorities to prepare a standard operating procedure (SOP) for rescue operations in "mines and other similar conditions".
The "rat-hole" mine, atop a hillock fully covered with trees in a remote part of East Jaintia Hills district, was flooded when water from a nearby river and an abandoned mine gushed into it, trapping the miners.
(With inputs from Reuters and PTI)