Dead or alive, miners should be taken out: SC

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Expressing dissatisfaction on the efforts to rescue 15 men trapped in a coal mine in Meghalaya for over three weeks, the Supreme Court asked the state government why it was not successful in rescuing 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.

“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,” said the Supreme Court.

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. Multiple teams, from the NDRF, Navy and firefighters, are on the ground, trying to make reach the miners.

The Navy and the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) divers could not go down the 370 foot-deep mine, even as draining out of 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.

A high-powered submersible pump from Coal India Ltd will be put into operation today in the abandoned mine, while more pumps from Odisha Fire and Disaster service are to be pressed into action in more abandoned mines, they said. 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 Meghalaya government’s lawyer told the Supreme Court that they have taken adequate steps in the rescue operation and that the centre was also supporting them.

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