Concerted efforts are being made to rescue the 40 workers trapped inside a tunnel in Uttarakhand for over 48 hours.
The rescue teams, who have been working nonstop since the collapse on early Sunday morning, have made little headway in cutting down the rocks that fell over a 200-meter area, trapping the workers inside the tunnel.
Rescuers are trying to create an escape passage to reach the trapped workers and the distance is about 40 metres. Officials said around 21 metres of slab blocking the tunnel has been removed and a 19 metres passage is yet to be cleared.
The rescue teams are planning to push the pipes with a 900 mm diameter, wide enough for the trapped men to squeeze through, by boring a hole into the heap of debris.
A platform is being prepared for an auger machine to drill horizontally and push the pipes through the debris and evacuate the workers, officials said.
All the material and machinery needed for the daring operation has been brought to the site. Experts from the irrigation department have also joined the operation.
Videos from the spot showed huge piles of concrete blocking the tunnel, twisted metal bars from its broken roof buried in rubble creating more obstacles for rescue workers – who are mostly migrants from Bihar, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Odisha, Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh.
They got trapped in the tunnel on Sunday morning after the under construction structure on the Brahmakhal-Yamunotri National Highway.
The workers – who have been trapped in a buffer zone – are unharmed and are being supplied with food and oxygen through water pipelines. “They have a buffer of around 400 metres to walk and breathe,” a Disaster response official said.
The rescue teams have successfully established communication with the workers with Walkie-Talkies. Initial contact was made via a note on a scrap of paper, but later rescuers managed to connect using radio handsets.
The 4.5-km tunnel on the Brahmakhal-Yamunotri National Highway, which will join Silkyara and Dandalgaon in Uttarkashi, is part of the Chardham project. Once finished, it is expected to cut down the distance by 26 km.
Initial reports suggest that a landslide in the region triggered the collapse, however, officials say that investigation is on to ascertain the exact reason for the collapse.