New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday asked the Centre and the Meghalaya government to file a status report before it by January 7, on steps and progress of the rescue operation of 15 miners who are trapped in an illegal flooded coal mine in Meghalaya’s East Jaintia Hills since December 13 last year. Also Read - Supreme Court Sets up National Task Force to Streamline Oxygen Allocation Across Country

During the hearing, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta told the top court that, “the mine is illegal and not maintained properly, no blueprints of the mine are available. Specialised divers of the Indian Navy were called but operation is difficult as is there is a river nearby.” To which, the apex court said “take action against mine owners”, adding, “Why should the workers suffer?” (Also Read: No Way Trapped Meghalaya Miners Will be Alive, How Long Can They Hold Breath Underwater: Survivor) Also Read - Central Vista Project: Supreme Court Dismisses Plea Seeking Halting Construction Work, Asks High Court to Pass Order

Yesterday, questioned by the Supreme Court regarding steps taken to rescue the trapped miners from the illegal flooded coal mine in East Jaintia Hills, the Meghalaya government said, ” 72 NDRF personnel, 14 Navy personnel and Coal India personnel are working since December 14.” Also Read - Centre Has To Supply 700 Metric Tonnes Of Oxygen To Delhi Everyday Till Further Orders, Says Supreme Court

The apex court retorted, “Then, why are they not successful?” Emphasising the urgency in the matter, SC said, “it is a very serious situation and a question of life and death of 15 coal miners who are trapped.” Supreme Court further said, “We are not satisfied with the rescue operations.”

Earlier, the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) had contradicted media reports which quoted it as saying 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.