The race against time continues. Indian rescuers plan to dig a new well to free 41 workers stuck for a week in a collapsed tunnel, after suspending drilling work for fear of further falling debris, authorities announced Saturday evening. Bhaskar Khulbe, a senior government official involved in the relief operations, said plans were now afoot to dig a well from above. “We are exploring all options to save the workers,” he said.

A loud crack

Rescuers work to clear debris from a road tunnel under construction in the northern Himalayan state of Uttarakhand after part of the tunnel that workers were supporting collapsed a week ago . currently under construction. But work to drill through tonnes of earth and rock inside the tunnel to reach workers was suspended on Saturday after a large crack occurred the day before, raising fears the ceiling could collapse.

The aim was to introduce a steel pipe of approximately 90 centimeters in diameter through which the workers, all still alive, would have been evacuated. A period of “four to five days maximum” is planned by the emergency services to release the workers, added Mr. Khulbe, without giving further details.

Workers “in tears”

The Press Trust of India news agency for its part indicated that “preparations to drill a vertical hole from the top of the hill” had begun. Indian media also carried a photo of an excavator clearing earth from the top of the hill above the tunnel. Rescuers communicate with the trapped men using radios. Food, water, oxygen and medicine were also delivered to workers through a 15-centimeter-wide pipe.

But relatives said workers stuck in a 400-meter-long space since November 12 were desperate, Indian media reported. “They are in tears (…) They started asking us if we were lying to them about the efforts made to save them,” one of them told the press on Saturday, without giving his name.

20 Minutes with AFP


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