LUCKNOW, India (Reuters) – Rescuers in the mountains of northern India trying to reach 40 road workers trapped in a collapsed tunnel for more than three days will soon receive help from a heavy drilling machine that has been airlifted to the site, officials said on Wednesday. .
The workers are safe and rescuers have been able to communicate with them and send them food, water and oxygen via tube since the early collapse on Sunday, but huge boulders have hampered efforts to dig an escape route for them.
A high-powered drilling machine was flown in from New Delhi, about 400 kilometers to the south, in the hope of drilling through the debris trapping the men.
Ashok Kumar, chief of police in the northern Indian state of Uttarakhand, said: “The new machine has arrived at the nearest helipad. It is being assembled and will be sent to the site soon.”
The men were working on the Char Dham Expressway, one of the most ambitious projects of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist government, which aims to connect four Hindu pilgrimage sites in the mountains via 890 kilometers of roads at a cost of $1.50. one billion.
There were up to 60 men on the night shift in the 4.5 km tunnel when the tunnel collapsed before dawn.
The men near the end of the tunnel managed to get out in time, but the 40 trapped men were working deeper into the tunnel.
News agency ANI showed footage on Wednesday of about a dozen angry workers outside the tunnel demanding that their colleagues be quickly rescued.
The Himalayan region in India is vulnerable to landslides, earthquakes and floods. Geologists, residents and officials blamed rapid construction for causing the slopes to subside.
The road project faced criticism from environmental experts, and some work stopped after hundreds of homes were damaged due to the subsidence.
Work on the tunnel began in 2018 and was initially scheduled to be completed by July 2022. It was scheduled to be completed in May next year, the government said in a statement before the collapse.
Reporting by Saurabh Sharma in Lucknow, writing by Tanvi Mehta and Krishn Kaushik; Edited by Raju Gopalakrishnan and Robert Birsel
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