India tunnel workers may be trapped for another four or five days, says official | India #India #tunnel #workers #trapped #days #official #India

Indian officials have warned that 41 construction workers who have been stuck inside a collapsed tunnel for over a week could be trapped for several more days, as various rescue efforts have failed so far.

Fears for the health and wellbeing of the workers continued to mount, having spent almost 200 hours confined inside the dark tunnel cavity in the state of Uttarakhand.

The three-mile long road tunnel, which was under construction in the Himalayan state, had collapsed in the early hours of last Sunday morning after a landslide in the mountainous area caused large amounts of rubble and debris to block the entrance.

Officials had previously said the number of people trapped inside was 40 labourers, but that was later increased to 41.

Though authorities had assured the public the labourers would be rescued quickly, the operation has now moved into its eighth day as the machinery and rescue have been hindered by heavy rubble and unstable terrain.

Bhaskar Khulbe, part of a specialist team from the prime minister’s office, said that five government agencies had now been brought in to the rescue operation. However, he warned on Sunday that it could be another “four to five days” before the men could be reached.

A large specialist drill was flown in from Delhi but the operation was stopped on Friday for safety reasons after a loud cracking noise was heard. The national highways and infrastructure development corporation warned there was a “strong possibility of further collapse”.

Colleagues of trapped workers wait near the tunnel as rescue efforts continue
Colleagues of trapped workers wait near the tunnel as rescue efforts continue. Photograph: Abhyudaya Kotnala/EPA

The government said a new “five point plan” was now in place, which involved drilling into the tunnel from three directions, including vertically and horizontally from either side. New roads have also been constructed to bring up more machinery to the site.

The Indian government said they had also consulted with experts who had been involved in the famed rescue of a team of young footballers from a cave in Thailand in 2018.

Constant oxygen and compressed food packets of chickpeas and dried fruits have been funnelled to the men through a small pipeline, which is also being used for communication. An operation is ongoing to insert a larger pipe into the cavity so that bread and fruit could be passed through to the workers.

However, medical experts warned that the longer the rescue efforts went on, the greater the threat to the health and mental stability of the trapped labourers. Doctors on site last week had warned that some of the workers had been complaining of nausea and headaches.

Families of those trapped inside have also faced an agonising wait as contact with those trapped inside is limited through a small pipe. Many have been gathered outside the tunnel entrance for days offering prayers.

Visiting the site, the central government minister for road transport and highways, Nitin Gadkari, said that the rescue teams were “facing challenges due to the complex and fragile geology of the Himalayas. The mountain is loose and fractured at the site.”

Gadkari sought to assure the public that the trapped workers are “safe and in good spirits” adding: “Keeping up the morale of the trapped workers and their family members should be everyone’s collective responsibility at the moment.”

The tunnel was being constructed in the district of Uttarkashi as part of the Char Dham road scheme, a $1.5bn (£1.2bn) flagship project of the prime minister, Narendra Modi, that aims to improve connectivity across Uttarakhand, which is a popular place for Hindu religious pilgrimage.

The project has proved controversial, as environmentalists and locals have alleged the heavy drilling and construction has caused subsidence, landslides and heavy environmental damage in the vulnerable Himalayan region.

#India #tunnel #workers #trapped #days #official #India

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