Expressing concern over the Meghalaya mine collapse matter, Supreme Court on Thursday asked Meghalaya government what steps it has taken to rescue 15 miners, who are trapped in an illegal flooded coal mine in East Jaintia Hills since December 13 last year.
In response the state government said, "The state is taking steps to rescue the trapped miners. 72 NDRF personnel, 14 Navy personnel and Coal India personnel are working since December 14.".
On this the apex court asked, “Then, why are they not successful?”
Supreme Court told Meghalaya government that "We are not satisfied with the rescue operations."
"It’s a very serious situation and it’s a question of life and death of 15 coal miners who are trapped," court added.
"No matter whether they are all dead, some alive, few dead or all alive, they should be taken out of the mine. We pray to God they are alive," the apex court said.
After a plea was filed seeking urgent steps to rescue 15 miners trapped inside an illegal coal mine in Meghalaya, the Supreme Court agreed to hear the matter on Thursday. Since December 13, a group of miners has been trapped.
Before a bench comprising Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justice S K Kaul, the matter was mentioned on Wednesday for urgent listing. The bench agreed to hear it on Thursday.
To prepare a standard operating procedure (SOP) for rescue operations in "mines and other similar conditions", the PIL sought a direction to the Centre and other authorities concerned. It is filed by advocate Aditya N Prasad.
In order to immediately rescue the 15 miners, the plea sought 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.
The rat-hole mine, atop a hillock fully covered with trees in East Jaintia Hills district, was flooded when water from the nearby Lytein river gushed into it, trapping the miners.
Rat-hole mining involves digging of narrow tunnels, usually three-four feet high, for workers to enter and extract coal. The horizontal tunnels are often termed "rat holes" as each just about fits one person.
The petitioner sought directions to the Centre and the state government to request for high capacity self-priming pumps available in the country including that of Kirloskar Brothers Limited (KBL) which were offered to the Royal Thai government in June-July 2018.
Pune-based KBL had given technical support in the operations to rescue a football team trapped inside a cave system in Thailand.
KBL had then offered to provide four specialised high capacity Autoprime de-watering pumps, which were kept ready at Kirloskarvadi plant in Maharashtra to be airlifted to Thailand.
The plea has also sought directions to the concerned authorities for airlifting the pumps to the rescue site. It also sought directions to the Coal India Limited for providing necessary technical know-how, equipment and guidance immediately at the rescue site.
The National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) had contradicted the media reports which quoted it as saying that the trapped minors were suspected to be dead on the basis of a foul odour that the force's 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.
A survivor of the accident had said on Saturday that there was no way the trapped miners would come out alive. Family members of at least seven trapped miners had already given up hope to rescue them alive and requested the government to retrieve the bodies for last rites.