NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Friday directed the Centre and the Meghalaya government to file a status report regarding the progress of the rescue operation to find 15 miners trapped in a coal mine by January 7.
Earlier, explaining the difficulties faced by the rescue team, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta told a bench headed by Justice A K Sikri that since the rathole coal mine was illegal, no map or blueprint of the same was available which was creating hiccups in the operation.
Mehta further told the court that the illegal mine was located near a river and since the mine’s wall was possibly breached, water was continuously gushing in, hindering the rescue operation. “A maze of ratholes has been created and nobody knows where this goes. The 355-feet well is like having a 20-storeyed building beneath the land,” the law officer said.
At this, the bench headed by Justice A K Sikri asked, “The problem is, why should these poor miners suffer? Unless the water is taken out, it will be difficult to carry out the rescue operation. Can’t the seepage from river be stopped?”
Mehta responded that authorities were unable to locate the seepage in the mine.
Enumerating the efforts made by the government, Mehta said there were a large number of mines in the 5-sq km area, but members of the National Disaster Response Force, divers and dog squad had reached the spot soon after the incident.
The apex court was hearing a plea seeking immediate steps by the central and state governments to rescue the miners who have been trapped inside the illegal coal mine in Meghalaya’s East Jaintia Hills since December 13.
The miners were trapped after water from the nearby Lytein river gushed into the 380-feet deep rathole mine.
9 lakh litres of water pumped out on Friday
The rescuers drained out nine lakh litres of water from the old shaft on Friday. A similar effort on Thursday had seen water level in the second old shaft going down by 13 inches. But the water rose again on Friday morning. All the three shafts are inter-connected underground. So, the rescue teams are first trying to pump out water from the two old shafts.
“The Odisha Fire Service pumped out nearly 9 lakh liters of water from the old shaft and the water receded by 3.5 ft. Pumping out of water from the main shaft is expected to begin by Saturday as the Kirloskar Brothers was able to insert its two pumps in the main shaft,” an official said.