Supreme Court: After the Centre told the Court that they were facing difficulties in the operation to rescue 15 miners trapped in an illegal coal mine in Meghalaya since December 13 as there was no blueprint of the 355-feet well, the Court directed the Centre and other authorities to file a status report on the steps taken and progress made in the rescue operation on January 7.
The Court had, on 03.01.2019, expressed dissatisfaction over the steps taken by the Meghalaya government to rescue 15 miners trapped in the illegal coal mine and had said “prompt, immediate and effective” operation was needed to rescue them as it was a matter of life and death.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta had told the bench that several members of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) were working at the site and instead of the Army, the government has sent Navy personnel there as the mine was submerged in water. However, the Court seemed dissatisfied with the submission and said:
“72 members of NDRF are already there but still no result. Why cannot you take help of the Army? He (petitioner) says that water pumps were sent to Thailand. Why cannot it (pumps) be used here also?”
Senior advocate Anand Grover, appearing for petitioner Aditya N Prasad, had told the bench that an adjoining mine was connected with river and the authorities were using only 25 horsepower pumps to flush out the water. The plea has also sought a direction to the Centre and other authorities concerned to prepare a standard operating procedure (SOP) for rescue operations in “mines and other similar conditions”. Directions to the Centre and the state to utilise the services of the technical wing of the Indian Armed Forces , the Indian Army, Indian Navy and Indian Air Force, in the operation immediately to rescue the 15 miners have also been sought.
The rat-hole mine, that involves digging of narrow tunnels, usually three-four feet high, for workers to enter and extract coal, atop a hillock fully covered with trees in Meghalaya’s East Jaintia Hills district, was flooded when water from the nearby Lytein river gushed into it, trapping 15 miners.