SILKYARA, India (Reuters) – The first images emerged on Tuesday of 41 men trapped for more than a week in a highway tunnel in the Indian Himalayas, showing them standing in the confined space and communicating with rescue workers as digging resumed. Pull them to safety.
The men have been stuck in the 4.5-kilometre-long tunnel in Uttarakhand state since it collapsed early on November 12, and they are safe, with light, oxygen, food, water and medicine, authorities said.
They did not mention the cause of the tunnel collapse, but the area is vulnerable to landslides, earthquakes and floods. Efforts to extract the 41 men have been slowed by obstacles in digging through the rubble in the mountainous terrain.
“We may be able to achieve a breakthrough in the next 30 to 40 hours,” Mahmoud Ahmed, managing director of the state-run National Highways and Infrastructure Development Company, told reporters.
“There may also be difficulties, but we are prepared for them,” he said after resuming drilling.
A 30-second video provided by authorities showed about a dozen of the trapped men standing in a semicircle in front of the camera, wearing helmets and construction workers’ jackets over their clothes against the backdrop of lights in the tunnel.
A rescue worker can be heard asking the men to come forward in front of the camera one by one, to confirm their identities on the walkie-talkie that was sent.
Authorities said the video was captured on a medical endoscopy camera that was pushed through a second, wider pipeline drilled through the wreckage on Monday.
An official in the rescue control room who spoke to Reuters on condition of anonymity said that the men trapped in the clip appeared to be in good condition, and responded that they were fine in response to inquiries about their safety.
A government statement said rescuers resumed digging horizontally through a 60-metre-high pile of rubble to push through a pipe large enough for the trapped men to emerge.
Drilling stopped on Friday after a machine malfunction and fears of a new collapse.
The statement added that work is also underway on five other plans to withdraw workers, including drilling vertically from the top of the mountain.
She added that one vertical rescue device has arrived and is being installed, and two others are awaiting.
Abhishek Sharma, a psychiatrist sent by the state government to the site, said he asked the 41 men to walk within the 2-kilometre (1.2 mile) area where they are being held, do light yoga exercises and talk regularly among themselves to keep them safe. Busy.
“Sleep is very important for them…so far they are sleeping well and have not reported any difficulties sleeping,” Sharma told Reuters, adding that the men are in good spirits and are keen to go out soon.
The trapped men are low-paid workers, mostly from poor states in northern and eastern India.
“He said he was fine,” Sunita Hebrom, sister-in-law of one of the workers trapped in the tunnel, Surendra Keshku, told reporters after she spoke to him.
“He said: ‘Take care of yourselves, the kids and the parents. Just tell us what they’re doing to get us out of here.’
(Reporting by Saurabh Sharma in Silkyara; Preparing by Mohammed for the Arabic Bulletin) Writing by YP Rajesh. Edited by Clarence Fernandez and Sharon Singleton
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