Shankar Prasad Nautiyal/Reuters
Members of rescue teams stand at the entrance to a tunnel where road workers are trapped after part of the tunnel collapsed in Uttarakhand, India.
Indian authorities are exploring new ways to rescue 40 construction workers trapped underground for more than a week.
Workers were left stranded last Sunday when a road tunnel they were building partially collapsed in the northern state of Uttarakhand.
Although they were given food and water, a doctor said some of them were getting sick, vomiting and suffering headaches.
State officials approved purchasing additional equipment and personnel to implement options such as building escape tunnels on the left and right sides of the tunnel, officials said.
Vertical drilling from the top of the hill, already underway, remains to be considered.
Rescue teams have been drilling non-stop to reach stranded workers since acquiring a high-powered drilling machine on Thursday, but given the fragile mountainous terrain there were fears more debris could fall and further complicate rescue efforts. rescue efforts.
“We have decided to adopt a pause approach to maintain balance,” Anshu Manish Khalkho, director of state-owned highway management company National Highways and Infrastructure Development Corporation Limited (NHIDCL), said on Friday.
By November 17, rescuers had drilled about a third of the way to the trapped workers.
Khalkho told reporters that rescuers, with the help of the high-powered drilling machine, have so far drilled about 25 meters (82 feet) inside the collapsed Uttarkashi tunnel.– that’s about a third of the way to trapped workers.
Rescuers have 60 meters of debris between them and the trapped men. According to Khalkho, pipes designed for the rescue mission were successfully inserted into about 25 meters (82 feet) of debris. However, there is still a long way to go before reaching 40 workers.
The pipes are inserted into the freshly drilled hole and welded together, Khalkho explained.
These interconnected pipes will provide an escape route for stranded men, allowing them to escape the collapsed section of the tunnel.
“It may look easy from the outside, but on site we have to take into account the effects of drilling vibrations on the fragile terrain,” Khalkho told reporters when asked about the duration of the rescue mission, which began on Saturday. in its seventh day. .
He also confirmed that a rescue drill was being flown in from the city of Indore, in India’s central Madhya Pradesh state, to assist in rescue operations. Reuters reported on Saturday that the initial drill broke down on Friday and needed to be replaced.
Meanwhile, Uttarakhand Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami also assured the press that the rescue work was on track with “NHIDCL engineers and experts working tirelessly” and that Prime Minister Narendra Modi was “reexamining the situation”.
In an update on Sunday, Dhami told Indian news agency ANI that “saving everyone’s lives is our first priority… the state government is ready to extend all necessary assistance to all agencies” , adding that teams of experts are working on all available possibilities to save the men.
Dhami then visited the site to “conduct an on-site inspection and review the ongoing relief and rescue work,” according to his post on X Sunday. He was joined by India’s Minister of Road Transport and Highways, Nitin Gadkari.
A special team from the Prime Minister’s Office arrived at the site of the tunnel collapse on Saturday to examine the situation.
The tunnel is part of Modi’s ambitious Himalayan Char Dham Highway project, a multi-million dollar infrastructure plan aimed at improving connectivity in the state of Uttarakhand and better access to important pilgrimage sites .
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