In this file photo taken on December 30, 2018 Indian Navy divers are lowered into a mine with a pulley during rescue operations to help 15 miners trapped by flooding in an illegal coal mine in Ksan village in Meghalaya's East Jaintia Hills district. Image Credit: AFP

New Delhi: The apex Supreme Court (SC) on Friday expressed dissatisfaction with the rescue efforts to trace the 15 miners trapped in an illegal coal mine in Meghalaya’s East Jaintia Hills since December 13, and said the hunt must continue as “miracles do happen.”

“Carry on with your rescue efforts, what if all or at least some are still alive? Miracles do happen,” a bench headed by Justice AK Sikri said.

The court was hearing a petition filed by lawyer Aditya Prasad that sought directions to the union and state government for adequate equipment and manpower for rescuing the trapped miners.

“The water is entering into the mine from the nearby river and it is interlinked with at least 20 other mines in the region. The site is in a difficult terrain where public services, infrastructure and material required is not easily available making rescue operations extremely challenging,” the state government said in its status report.

While asking the Narendra Modi-government to take help of experts, the judges also asked what the state government was doing against those operating illegal mines in the state.

On Friday, Prasad said the expertise of Indian Army, Indian Navy and Indian Air Force should be utilised in the rescue mission.

The Meghalaya government informed the apex court that over 250 rescuers from National Disaster Relief Force (NDRF), Odisha Fire Service, State Disaster Response Fund, Fire Service, Coal India Limited (CIL) and Kirloskar Brothers Limited (KBL) were involved in the rescue operations.

“The multi-agency rescue operation has succeeded in draining out water from the flooded mine, but divers found no change in the water level in the rathole mine to continue search operation,” the state government said.

So far rescuers from KBL and CIL have managed to pump out 21 million litres of water from the mine.

“The state government informed the Supreme Court that millions of litres of water, including from the main shaft and the abandoned shafts interconnected to each other, has been removed till Thursday with no trace of trapped miners in sight. But the court directed the government to continue the rescue mission till it is completed. It is a positive direction,” petitioner Prasad told Gulf News.

Earlier this week, the Meghalaya government had informed the court that there was no blueprint of the illegal coal mine as it was being run “clandestinely”.