Rescue workers in northern India scrambled for a third day to rescue 40 workers from an underground tunnel in Uttarakhand after it collapsed on Sunday. All 40 trapped workers are still alive.
They were building a 4.5 km long road tunnel when the structure gave way. The workers are trapped under the rubble and mechanical diggers are being used to dig an escape tunnel.
“Our biggest breakthrough is that we were able to make contact (with the workers) and establish that there is enough oxygen and food,” Abhishek Ruhela, the district’s chief government official, told AFP on Tuesday.
“Everything possible is done for their survival.”
Ruhela says oxygen is continuously pumped into the tunnel while small food items, such as dried fruit, are provided to the workers.
Photos shared by rescue teams show large piles of rubble and construction debris blocking the entrance to the wide tunnel.
Heavy machinery is used to drive a wide steel pipe (90 cm wide) through the rubble so that the workers can crawl through it.
The tunnel is being built between Silkyara and Dandalgaon and must connect these towns with each other. It forms part of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s road project to improve travel conditions between popular Hindu shrines in the country, as well as areas bordering China.
However, accidents on major infrastructure projects in India are common. At least 200 people died in January in flash floods in Uttarakhand and the blame for this disaster is partly laid on overdevelopment in the area.