The rescue operation to free 41 construction workers trapped for nearly two weeks in a collapsed tunnel in northern India is in its final stages. The workers, stuck since November 12 after a landslide caused a section of the 4.5km tunnel to collapse, are now just a few meters away from potential liberation.
The operation faced setbacks, including a damaged drilling machine and metal objects obstructing progress. However, with special cutters from New Delhi and Dehradun, the drilling has resumed in full swing. Atul Karwal, Chief of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), expressed optimism, stating, “We should be able to rescue them in today’s date.”
The drilling, as of Thursday evening, had advanced nearly 46 meters, requiring an additional 12 meters for a passageway. Rescue teams plan to insert and weld together pipes, creating a route for the trapped workers’ freedom. Ambulances and a team of 15 doctors are on standby at the site.
The mountainous terrain in Uttarakhand presented challenges, causing the drilling machine to break down and vibrations to dislodge debris. Ambulances and medical support were deployed to the site, providing hope to anxious relatives who have endured days of uncertainty.
Authorities have ensured the trapped workers have access to light, oxygen, food, and water. Hot meals are being supplied through a 6-inch pipe, and a video released on Tuesday showed workers in their construction hats communicating with rescuers through walkie-talkies.
The incident has raised concerns about the environmental impact of construction projects in the fragile Himalayan region. Experts highlight the need for geological investigations and caution against tunnel projects in such vulnerable areas.
The collapsed tunnel is part of the Chardham all-weather road project, connecting various Hindu pilgrimage sites. As the rescue operation approaches its conclusion, anticipation builds among family members, with the end of the workers’ ordeal expected by the end of the day.