'Every second counts': SC on rescuing trapped miners

'Every second counts': SC on rescuing trapped miners

The Supreme Court on Thursday told the Union government to take “prompt, immediate and effective” steps to rescue about 15 miners trapped inside an illegal coal mine in Meghayala, saying it is a question of life and death.

A bench of Justices A K Sikri and S Abdul Nazeer asked Solicitor General Tushar Mehta to respond by Friday about the measures undertaken to save those trapped miners.

“We are not satisfied with the rescue operations. No matter whether they are all dead, or some alive or some dead and all alive, they should be taken out. We pray to the God that all are alive,” the bench said.

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“Every second counts for the people trapped inside. It is a question of life and death,” the bench told the law officer, as he submitted that 72 personnel from the National Disaster Response Force were already deployed along with Navy personnel.

He also said Central Coal Minister along with the top officers were monitoring the situation and a nodal officer would be appointed.

“Yes, people are there but perhaps, there is no coordination,” the bench observed and asked him why the help from Army was not taken in the rescue operations.

The court also asked as to why the help from Navy divers was not taken as was done in case of Thailand to rescue a football team from a flooded cave last year.

Senior advocate Anand Grover, appearing for a petitioner-advocate, Aditya N Prasad, pointed out there were drivers available to help in the operations.

The court said, for now, the question for laying down a standard operating procedure for rescue operations in mines and other similar situations could be put aside, but immediate steps should be taken in the crises witnessed in the flooded coal mine in Meghalaya's East Jaintia Hills district where the miners were reported to be trapped for more than 20 days.

The petitioner sought mandamus to the Centre and the Meghalaya government to utilise services of experts and technical arms of Indian Army, Navy and Air Force in the rescue operations immediately.

Among others, he also sought a direction for utilising high capacity self-priming or any other pumps available in the country, including that of Kirloskar Brothers Ltd, which offered its services to Royal Thai government in June/ July this year in rescuing a football team.

It also urged for a direction to Coal India Ltd in the operations by providing technical know-how, equipment and guidance.

The fate of about 15 coal miners remained unknown even as NDRF and others started their operations to rescue them from a flooded coal mine in Meghalaya's East Jaintia Hills district. They were reported to be trapped there for more than 20 days.

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