Indian rescue operations of 41 men trapped face obstacles

Hopes for the imminent rescue of 41 men trapped in a highway tunnel in the Indian Himalayas for nearly two weeks were dashed by a problem with the drilling equipment, officials said on Friday, but efforts to reach the workers should resume soon.

2023 11 24T020344Z 1 LYNXMPEJAN01N RTROPTP 4 INDIA TUNNEL COLLAPSE 1 scaled
Hindu priests pray at a makeshift shrine outside the entrance of a tunnel where workers are trapped after the tunnel collapsed in Uttarkashi, in the northern state of Uttarakhand, India, November 23, 2023. REUTERS/Shankar Prasad Nautiyal

The men, construction workers from some of India’s poorest states, have been confined in the 4.5-km (3-mile) tunnel in Uttarakhand state since it caved in early on November 12. Authorities have said they are safe, with access to light, oxygen, food, water and medicines.

Attempts to pull them out by drilling through the debris of rock, stones and metal and pushing through an evacuation pipe have been slowed by snags.

Rescuers had hoped to finish the drilling late on Thursday but had to suspend it after the platform on which the auger machine is placed was damaged, and subsequently a metal pipe was found stuck to the machine, requiring it to be reassembled, a government statement said.

An estimated 15 metres (49 feet) of the debris pile is left to be drilled through and a study using ground penetration radar shows there is no metallic obstruction for the next 5 metres, said Bhaskar Khulbe, a senior tunnel project official.

“We have a very big positive in that,” Khulbe told reporters. “This means our drilling should be smooth … and we are much more hopeful,” he said, adding that drilling should resume by 11.30 a.m. (0600 GMT).

The rescue plan involves pushing a pipe wide enough to pull the trapped men out on wheeled stretchers. Rescue workers rehearsed the evacuation by going into the pipe and being pulled out on stretchers, a video clip provided by authorities showed.

A second plan to drill vertically from atop the hill is also being pursued and the drilling machines are being assembled, the statement said.

The men have been getting cooked food since a larger lifeline pipe was pushed through earlier this week and the statement said they were sent 200 rotis or Indian round flat bread, lentils and mixed vegetable curry.

More than a dozen doctors, including psychiatrists, have been at the site, talking to the men and monitoring their health.

They have been told to do light yoga exercises, walk around in the 2-km space they have been confined to, and keep talking to each other. Rohit Gondwal, a psychiatrist, told Reuters they were also considering sending playing cards and board games such as ludo and chess.

The collapsed tunnel is on the Char Dham pilgrimage route, one of the most ambitious projects of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government.

It aims to link four key Hindu pilgrimage sites with 890 km (550 miles) of two-lane road, at a cost of $1.5 billion.

Authorities have not said what caused the tunnel collapse, but the region is prone to landslides, earthquakes and floods.

More from Qonversations

News

antusias penonton fiba world cup di indonesia arena gbk 3 169

GBK declared first sport venue to use 100% renewable energy

News

AFP 20240218 34JM2XT v1 HighRes GermanyDiplomacyPoliticsSecurityMsc

Why Palestinian Authority’s prime minister and government have resigned

News

2024 02 23T100701Z 1 LYNXNPEK1M0A2 RTROPTP 4 GERMANY CANNABIS

Germany legalizes cannabis

News

feb1ad24 1558 444d 8e7d f6aa6ad72ce7

4-month-old Indian baby stuns world with special talent

Front of mind
Screenshot 2024 02 09 at 10.47.42

How to win elections in Africa – Chike Ukaegbu

Ismail Akwei

Presidential elections in Africa have gone through many cycles since the 1950s when Ghana became the first country […]

Read more
Screenshot 2024 01 21 at 07.33.15 scaled

How China can help revive agribusiness in the Caribbean

Eleanor Sa-Carneiro

Against the backdrop of the Caribbean, Trinidad and Tobago’s Fine Cocoa Company is setting sail into the waters […]

Read more