India races against time to save 41 workers trapped in collapsed tunnel as nearly a week elapses
The rescue operation came to a halt on Friday (17) after the rescue officials tried to restart the drilling machine heard a big “cracking sound”.
Security personnel and others at the under-construction tunnel that collapsed, trapping several workers inside, in Uttarkashi district of the northern Indian state of Uttarakhand, on Saturday, November 18, 2023. (PTI Photo)
THE operation to rescue more than 40 workers who got trapped under a collapsed under-construction highway tunnel in Uttarkashi district of the northern Indian state of Uttarakhand for nearly a week now received a setback as the primary digging machine reportedly developed a snag.
It was reported that a new machine was being brought to resume the operation even as the workers’ families were spending anxious days thinking about their safety. They also arrived at the spot and prayed for a speedy rescue fearing more delay could see the workers’ health deteriorating.
Disaster management officials said the number of workers who remained trapped in the debris was 41, revising the earlier count of 40, the Indian Express reported.
The rescue operation came to a halt on Friday (17) after the rescue officials tried to restart the drilling machine heard a big “cracking sound”, as reported by the state-run National Highways and Infrastructure Development Corporation (NHIDC).
The replacement machine was brought from Indore in the central state of Madhya Pradesh. Officials said they would first bring out the defunct machine from inside before deploying the new one. Anshu Malik Halko, director, NHIDC, told Reuters that the procedure would take time and could not comment on a deadline.
“It’s a delicate and risky operation,” he was quoted as saying.
On Friday, rescue officials said that a transport aircraft from the Indian Air Force was pressed into action to carry around 22 tonnes of essential equipment from Indore to Dehradun, the capital of Uttarakhand.
The Silkyara Tunnel on the Yamunotri National Highway, meant to reduce travel time to some of the major Hindu pilgrimage sites in northern India, collapsed early on Sunday. The officials said the trapped workers were safe and they were maintaining communication with them through a pipe meant for supplying, boosting their spirit. They were also providing them with water and food.
The workers who got trapped inside belong to various Indian states such as Bihar, West Bengal, Odisha, Jharkhand, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand, local emergency officials said.