New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday directed the Centre and Meghalaya government to file a status report regarding the progress of rescue operations of trapped Meghalaya miners by 7 January.

Solicitor General (SG), Tushar Mehta told the court that the mine being illegal, there was no blue print of how it was structured. There was continuous seepage of water from the adjoining Lytein river, making rescue difficult.

He added that the National Disaster Resource Force (NDRF) divers assisting in the rescue operations were not able to go beyond a certain depth.

On Thursday, a bench headed by Justice A.K. Sikri expressed displeasure over the progress of rescue operations of coal miners trapped in Meghalaya and asked the SG to apprise the court of the steps being taken.

The apex court was responding to a plea seeking immediate steps by the centre and the state government to rescue 15 miners who have been trapped inside an illegal coal mine in Meghalaya’s East Jaintia Hills since 13 December. The miners were trapped after flood waters from the Lytein river gushed into the 370-feet deep rat-hole mine.

The petition sought a direction to the centre and other authorities to prepare a standard operating procedure (SOP) for rescue operations in mining accidents. It also wanted to know why heavy duty pumps by private companies, such as Kirloskar Brothers Ltd, were not being used for the rescue operation. The Kirloskars had offered four pumps of 100 horsepower each, while the Tatas offered two.

It also sought intervention of the army, the navy and the air force, which are already engaged in the rescue operation.

The National Green Tribunal (NGT) had imposed a blanket ban on unscientific and unsafe mining of coal in Meghalaya in 2014.

The matter will next be heard on 7 January.

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