• Tuesday, March 05, 2024

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All 40 workers in India tunnel collapse safe, food and water sent

“Due to excess debris in the tunnel, we are facing some difficulty in the rescue, but our team is leaving no stone unturned” – Response Force senior officer

Uttarakhand Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami reviews the ongoing rescue operation after a portion of a tunnel under construction between Silkyara and Dandalgaon on the Brahmakhal-Yamunotri national highway collapsed, in Uttarkashi on Monday. (ANI Photo)

By: Kimberly Rodrigues

Rescue teams in northern India announced on Monday (13) that they were able to establish contact with 40 workers who had been trapped for more than 24 hours following the collapse of the road tunnel they were constructing.

“All the 40 workers trapped inside the tunnel are safe,” Karamveer Singh Bhandari, a senior commander in the National Disaster Response Force told AFP, from the site in the Himalayan state of Uttarakhand. “We sent them water and food.”

The collapse occurred early Sunday morning, with rescue teams using heavy excavators to clear piles of debris in desperate efforts to reach the 40 men.

Oxygen was being pumped into the blocked portion of the tunnel, with food sent through a water pipe.

Initial contact was made via a note on a scrap of paper, but later rescuers managed to connect using radio handsets.

“Some small food packets were sent in through a pipe which is also taking oxygen inside,” rescue official Durgesh Rathodi told AFP from the site.

Rathodi said excavators had removed about 20 metres (65 feet) of heavy debris, but the men were 40 metres 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,” Bhandari added.

– ‘Bring them out safely’ –

Uttarakhand chief minister Pushkar Singh Dhami, who on Monday flew to the site of the accident, said the work to remove the tons of tumbled concrete debris were “being made continuously to bring them out safely”, he wrote on Twitter.

“Contact has been made with the workers trapped in the tunnel through a walkie-talkie,” he said. “Efforts are being made to get them out safely soon.”

One rescue worker, was quoted as saying that the men were contacted shortly after midnight on Monday.

Disaster response official Devendra Patwal said that while the men were trapped, they had space in the tunnel area where they were.

“The good thing is that the labourers are not crammed in, and have a buffer of around 400 metres to walk and breathe,” Patwal said.

The 4.5-kilometre (2.7-mile) tunnel is being constructed between Silkyara and Dandalgaon to connect two of the holiest Hindu shrines of Uttarkashi and Yamunotri.

Photographs released by the government rescue teams showed huge piles of rubble blocking the wide tunnel, with twisted metal bars on its broken roof poking down in front of the rubble.

The tunnel is part of prime minister Narendra Modi’s Char Dham Road Project, which is meant to improve connectivity for some of the most popular Hindu shrines in the country, as well as areas bordering China.

(AFP)

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