Indian Navy divers prepare to enter the ill-fated coal mine in East Jaintia Hills, Meghalaya Credit: EastMojo image

Guwahati: The Centre on Friday informed the Supreme Court that it was facing difficulties in rescuing the 15 miners, who have been trapped inside an illegal coal mine in Meghalaya’s East Jaintia Hills since December 13 last year, as there was no blueprint available of the 355-ft mine.

The Centre told the top court that the rat-hole mine was located near a river and seepage of water was hindering the rescue operation. Representing the Centre, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta informed a Bench of justices AK Sikri and S Abdul Nazeer about the steps taken for a swift rescue operation.

The Bench directed the Centre and the other authorities concerned to file a status report on the steps taken and progress made in the rescue operations, on January 7.

Earlier on Thursday, the SC had expressed dissatisfaction over the manner in which the Meghalaya government has been undertaking the rescue operations, calling it a “serious issue”.

“Every second counts for those trapped inside the mine,” a two-judge bench comprising Justices A K Sikri and S Abdul Nazeer had noted, adding: “It is a question of life and death.”

The apex court was hearing a PIL that sought a direction to the Centre and the Meghalaya government to utilise the services of of the Indian Army, the Indian Navy and the Indian Air Force to rescue the miners at the earliest.

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 SC had then asked Solicitor General Tushar Mehta to look into the matter urgently and apprise the court of steps taken on Friday.

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