After enduring more than a week trapped in a collapsed tunnel in northern India, 41 construction workers are finally receiving hot meals via a newly installed steel pipe. The meals, consisting of rice and lentils, were sent through a 6-inch pipe inserted into the rubble on Monday night, according to Deepa Gaur, a government spokesperson.
Over the past nine days, the workers had been surviving on dry food delivered through a narrower pipe, while a separate pipe supplied them with essential oxygen. In an effort to assess the workers’ conditions, a camera was sent through the pipe, capturing a video released by officials on Tuesday. The footage showed the workers, donned in construction hats, moving within the blocked tunnel and communicating with rescuers on the ground using walkie-talkies. Concerns among their families have been escalating as the rescue operation faced delays.
The collapse occurred in Uttarakhand state, known for its challenging mountainous terrain. Rescue efforts initially focused on horizontal drilling, but complications arose as the drilling machine broke down, and its vibrations led to additional debris falling. In response, officials temporarily suspended the rescue operation.
The current strategy involves creating an access road to the hill’s summit, from which rescuers will dig vertically. However, this process is anticipated to take several days, with the potential for falling debris during the vertical excavation. Officials disclosed on Monday that reaching the trapped workers requires a downward dig of 338 feet, almost double the initial distance.
Simultaneously, rescue teams plan to continue horizontal drilling from the tunnel’s entrance towards the trapped workers. The challenging conditions in Uttarakhand, coupled with the significance of the tunnel as part of the Chardham all-weather road project, underscore the complexities faced by authorities in the ongoing rescue mission.
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The workers became trapped on November 12 following a landslide that caused a section of the 2.8-mile tunnel they were constructing to collapse approximately 650 feet from the entrance. Uttarakhand, known for its Hindu temples, experiences continuous construction to accommodate the influx of pilgrims and tourists. The tunnel is a crucial component of the Chardham all-weather road, a flagship federal project connecting various Hindu pilgrimage sites. To date, about 200 disaster relief personnel have been engaged in the rescue operation, utilizing drilling equipment and excavators at the site.