Indian rescue teams encounter difficulties in two-week effort to free 41 tunnel workers

Indian rescue teams encounter difficulties in two-week effort to free 41 tunnel workers

Indian rescue teams took a different route on Saturday, but encountered a snag just meters before reaching the men, freeing 41 workers who had been trapped in a collapsed road tunnel for two weeks. A new excavator was brought in on Saturday to open the vertical shaft.

In the latest setback in frantic attempts to rescue increasingly desperate workers, engineers drove metal pipes through 57 meters (187 feet) of rock and concrete, destroying metal rods buried in the ground. and collided with a construction vehicle.

Just 9 meters (30 feet) from breakthrough, excavation by giant earth-moving excavators has stalled, while gas-cutting tools are being used to cut through a thick pipe from inside a narrow pipe only wide enough for a human to crawl through. It is difficult to remove the metal spars.

“Work is currently underway to lift the blockade,” Abhishek Ruhera, a top local civil servant, told AFP on Saturday.

Arnold Dix, president of the International Tunneling and Underground Space Association, said the main excavator had broken down and removal efforts were continuing.

“The machine is broken. It’s beyond repair. It’s a mess,” he told reporters at the tunnel site.

But Dix, who is helping with the rescue effort, said he remained hopeful as there were “many ways” to contact the men.

“I am confident that 41 people will return home.”

Rescue efforts have been painfully slow, complicated by falling debris and repeated failures of key heavy excavators, and the Air Force has had to airlift in new equipment twice.

Ambulances are on standby and field hospitals are being prepared to take in trapped men after a section of the Silk Yala tunnel under construction in the northern state of Uttarakhand collapsed on November 12.

Challenging Himalayan Terrain

At the same time, AFP reporters at the scene saw a heavy earth digger moving down a specially excavated path towards the top of the forested hill above the tunnel to begin the dangerous shaft. I witnessed it.

“We are in the final stages of contacting the workers who are trapped indoors,” Ruhera told AFP. “All possible options are being considered to reach them.”

Officials estimate the proposed vertical shaft would need to be 89 meters (291 feet) deep, requiring complex excavation above areas where collapse has already occurred.

Excavation work has also begun on the other side of the road tunnel, with a third, much longer route estimated at around 480 metres.

Uttarakhand Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami said authorities and a team of international experts were working on all options.

“We will soon succeed in safely evacuating our worker brothers,” he said in a social media post.

Rescue teams have wheeled stretchers ready to pull the exhausted men through the 57-metre (57-metre) pipe if they can get through the last bit of debris blocking their escape.

On Tuesday, workers were seen alive for the first time looking through the lens of an endoscope camera sent by rescue workers through the thin pipes that carry air, food, water and electricity.

Since Wednesday, officials have repeatedly said they were optimistic that the situation would be resolved within hours, but a government statement said the timeline was subject to “due to technical glitches, difficult Himalayan terrain, and unforeseen emergencies.” It is subject to change.”

Please be very careful about what happens next.

Senior rescue official and retired general Syed Ata Hasnain said their efforts were “like a battle”.

“We must get rid of these brave people by any means necessary,” he told reporters Friday afternoon, adding that “all the resources” needed were being used.

“We will be paying very close attention to future developments,” he said.

Although confined, there is plenty of space inside the tunnel, which is 8.5 meters high and approximately 2 kilometers long.


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