Rescue Workers Digging Through Tunnel Collapse
On Sunday (Nov. 12), a rescue team began to dig through parts of a collapsed road tunnel in an effort to save 40 workers who had been trapped by a landslide at a construction project site in northern India.
According to reports, workers in Uttarakhand, India, were trapped while building part of the Chardham all-weather road, a federal government project connecting several Hindu pilgrimage sites.
A report from AP News states that as of now, all the construction workers are safe, adding that they have been supplied with oxygen and water. Additionally, police officer Prashant Kumar told The Associated Press that the rescuers had been able to establish contact with the miners.
Rescue efforts reportedly started the day of the incident, with authorities pumping oxygen through a pipe into the collapsed section of the tunnel to help workers breathe as they dug into the collapsed structure.
Rescuers were digging through dirt and parts of a collapsed road tunnel Monday to reach 40 workers trapped by a landslide at a construction project in northern India.https://t.co/EkqGDNzyn7— Cheddar News (@cheddar) November 13, 2023
A report from Euro News states that Initial contact was made through a note on a scrap of paper, though now rescuers have been able to contact the miners with radio handsets.
"Some small food packets were sent in through a pipe which is also taking oxygen inside," rescue official Durgesh Rathodi stated at the site.
A separate report from ABC News adds that the amount of workers trapped at the site, which is 40 in total, was confirmed the day after the incident by Rajesh Pawar, the project manager at the Navyug Construction Company, currently in charge of construction on the tunnel.
“The team has progressed 15 meters into the tunnel, with an additional 35 meters yet to cover,” Kumar told ABC News, noting that over 150 rescuers had used drilling equipment and excavators to clear debris overnight.
According to more recent reports, however, excavators had removed about 20 meters of heavy debris by Monday (Nov. 13), though the miners are still 40 meters beyond that point.
"Due to excess debris in the tunnel, we are facing some difficulty in the rescue, but our team is leaving no stone unturned," Karamveer Singh Bhandari, a senior commander in the National Disaster Response Force said.
Officials have stated that the collapsed portion of the 2.7-mile tunnel is about 200 meters (500 feet) from the entrance.
Uttarakhand chief minister Pushkar Singh Dhami reportedly flew out to the site on Monday, stating on the social media platform X that contact “has been made with the workers trapped in the tunnel through a walkie-talkie. Efforts are being made to get them out safely soon."
On Monday, AP reported in an update that most of the workers stuck inside were migrant laborers from across the country.
Lakshmi Pakhirai, mother of one of the workers, said, “someone who is there in Uttarakhand called and told us that Souvik is fine and rescue workers have spoken to him. They said he is fine and healthy.”
Photographs released by India’s government rescue teams reportedly showed large piles of rubble blocking the tunnel, with twisted metal bars on its broken roof poking down in front of the mess.
"The good thing is that the laborers are not crammed in and have a buffer of around 400 meters to walk and breathe," said disaster response official Devendra Patwal.