The Supreme Court on Friday directed the Centre and the Meghalaya government to seek assistance from experts and continue efforts to rescue 15 miners trapped in an illegal rat hole mine in East Jaintia Hills district since December 13, ANI reported.

The court is hearing a petition filed by Aditya N Prasad, seeking urgent steps to rescue the miners. The Supreme Court had earlier pulled up the government for its inefficiency in conducting rescue efforts and had asked for updates.

The court also asked the government to take into account the suggestions made by the petitioner in connection with the rescue measures, The Indian Express reported. “Whether they [the trapped miners] are dead or alive, we don’t know,” said the bench comprising Justices AK Sikri and S Abdul Nazeer. “But miracles can happen, so we have to keep trying till we have some result.”

The state government on Friday told the court that although one crore litre water has been pumped out from the mine, leakage from a surrounding river was hindering the operation, PTI reported. The Indian Navy has also deployed five remotely-operated vehicles to aid in the rescue efforts, while the Indian Air Force has deployed planes and helicopters to airlift equipment and manpower.

In an earlier hearing, the government had told the court that the Indian Navy had deployed remotely-operated underwater vehicles at the site to trace the miners. Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing the central government, had informed the bench that 71 members of the National Disaster Response Force, 20 from the State Disaster Response Force, 16 Navy personnel and personnel from the Odisha Fire Services and Coal India Limited were operating at the site.

The court asked the state if any action had been taken against those participating in illegal mining activities in the state, and was informed that the person running the mine had been arrested. Earlier this month, the National Green Tribunal imposed a Rs 100-crore fine on the Meghalaya government for failing to check illegal coal mining, which was banned in 2014.

The court will next hear the matter on January 18.