In a remarkable breakthrough, rescuers have successfully cleared debris that imprisoned 41 men in an Indian tunnel for over two weeks.
The workers are anticipated to be evacuated individually on wheeled stretchers through a three-foot-wide pipe. Despite this progress, additional debris removal is necessary before the tube can be maneuvered through, extending the operation by a couple of hours.
A contingent of rescue workers equipped with ropes and ladders awaits outside the tunnel, with ambulances queued up for immediate medical attention on-site before transporting the men to a hospital approximately 19 miles away.
The laborers, hailing from India’s economically challenged states, have been stranded in the three-mile-long highway tunnel in Uttarakhand since November 12. Throughout their ordeal, sustenance, water, light, oxygen, and medicines have been supplied through a pipeline.
A setback occurred when a drilling machine malfunctioned last week, temporarily stalling the rescue mission. However, rat miners, adept at manual drilling through rocks and gravel, were enlisted on Monday, making significant progress overnight.
Kirti Panwar, a state government spokesperson, reported that a dozen men took turns using hand-held tools in the arduous drilling process. While officials confirmed that around six or seven meters are still pending, Deepak Patil, a senior officer leading the rescue, expressed optimism, stating, “Sure, 100%” when asked about reaching the trapped men on Tuesday. Simultaneously, rescuers initiated the creation of a vertical channel to facilitate drilling.
The tunnel is an integral part of the £1.2 billion Char Dham highway project, designed to connect four Hindu pilgrimage sites through a comprehensive 500-mile road network. Although authorities haven’t disclosed the cause of the collapse, the region has experienced previous incidents of landslides, earthquakes, and floods.