As they get ready to dig a brand-new shaft after previous attempts failed, Indian rescuers are battling to free 41 men who have been trapped in the road tunnel for nine days.
The under-construction tunnel in Uttarakhand, a state in the northern Himalayas, collapsed on November 12 and was being excavated on Monday. Earth, concrete, and debris were being removed from the site.
Light is available to the workers who are trapped, and a pipe is being used to send supplies of water, dry food, oxygen, as well as medications. According to officials, dysentery has been reported by at least three employees.
According to Bhaskar Khulbe, an officer on special duty for the tunnel project, the authorities are currently attempting to send cooked food and set up a phone connection for them through another, 6-inch (15cm) pipeline that is being drilled into the debris. Of the estimated 60 meters (200 feet), 42 metres (138 feet) have already been finished.
Saving 41 lives trapped inside the tunnel is our top priority. We will be able to send them the necessary items through this pipeline, Road Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari told reporters on Sunday.
In order to enable workers to communicate with their families, officials are also thinking about installing an optical fiber connection through this pipeline, Gadkari added.
However, falling debris and frequent breakdowns of the essential heavy drilling machines have slowed down rescue efforts, forcing the air force to twice airlift new equipment.
In Uttarakhand, where significant portions of the state are prone to landslides, experts have issued warnings about the effects of extensive construction.
Just wide enough for the increasingly desperate men to fit through, engineers had been attempting to horizontally drive a steel pipe through the rubble.
However, on Friday and Monday, drilling on that route was stopped due to a “panic situation,” according to officials.
Teams were now getting ready to dig the new shaft from above, necessitating the construction of a brand-new track for the required heavy equipment.
According to Jasvant Kapoor, a general manager at the state-run company SJVN that is involved in the rescue efforts, the new plans call for drilling vertically from the mountain’s summit, which rescuers hope to begin by Tuesday while they wait for machinery to arrive.
Abhishek Ruhela, a prominent local civil servant, claimed that three-quarters of the new drilling site’s track had been constructed.
According to Ruhela, the 1,200-meter-long road that will be used for drilling over the tunnel has reached a height of 900 meters (2,950 feet).
The International Tunneling and Underground Space Association’s president, Arnold Dix, is one of the foreign experts who have been enlisted.
On Monday at the location, Dix told reporters, “We’re going to find a solution and get them out.” “Here, a lot of work is being done.” It’s crucial that both the men doing the rescuing and those who have been rescued are secure.
At the tunnel’s entrance, villagers have erected a Hindu temple to the local deity Boukhnag, alleging that the original temple was relocated while being built. Some villagers attributed the initial temple’s destruction to the tunnel collapse.
Pushkar Singh Dhami, the chief minister of Uttarakhand, claimed to have discussed the crisis with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday.
Dhami insisted that the “workers trapped in the tunnel are safe” in a statement, saying that “every effort is being made.”