Indian tunnel rescue faces delays as drill damage complicates operation

Indian tunnel rescue faces delays as drill damage complicates operation

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It will take longer than previously thought to rescue 41 workers trapped for two weeks in a highway tunnel in the Indian Himalayas as rescuers are switching to manual drilling after damage to machinery, officials said Saturday.

Government officials said the heavy drill brought in to break up about 60 meters of debris was damaged on Friday and was being completely pulled out, adding that the last 10-15 meters were being drilled with hand-held power tools. Have to break from.

The men, construction workers from some of India’s poorest states, have been trapped in a 4.5-kilometre (3-mile) tunnel being built in Uttarakhand state since it caved in early on November 12. Authorities have said they are safe with access to light, oxygen, food, water and medicines.

A heavy drill machine, called an auger, which was damaged after hitting an obstacle on Friday, broke while pulling out a 47-meter pipe that was inserted to rescue the trapped workers.

Uttarakhand state Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami said on Saturday that the damaged drilling machine would be removed by Sunday morning, so that manual drilling could begin.

Syed Ata Hasnain, a member of the National Disaster Management Authority overseeing rescue efforts, said the operation was becoming “more complex” and that the process would be slower than when augers were used for drilling.

“We need to strengthen our brothers trapped inside. We need to keep an eye on their psychological condition, because this operation could last for a very long time,” he said, without giving any timeframe.

On Saturday morning the stranded workers, all migrants, were “very worried”, said Sunita Hembrom, whose brother-in-law Birendra Kishku, 39, is in the tunnel.

“My brother-in-law told me that he has not eaten since yesterday. We are very worried,” he said.

Authorities have not said what caused the tunnel collapse, but the area is at risk of landslides, earthquakes and flooding.

The tunnel had no emergency exits and was created by a geological fault, a member of a panel of experts investigating the disaster said Friday, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media. Are.

The rescue plan involved opening a pipe wide enough to allow the trapped people to be evacuated on wheeled stretchers. A video clip provided by officials showed rescue workers practicing evacuation by going into the pipe and pulling them out on stretchers.

A second plan to drill vertically from the top of the hill is also being worked on and drilling machines are being assembled, the statement said.

The men have been receiving cooked food since a large lifeline was sent through the pipe earlier this week and the statement said they had been sent 200 rotis or Indian round flat bread, dal and vegetable curry.

More than a dozen doctors, including psychiatrists, are at the scene, talking to the men and monitoring their health.

They have been advised to do light yoga exercises, walk around the 2 km space to which they are confined and keep talking to each other. Psychiatrist Rohit Gondwal said they are also considering sending cards and board games.

The demolished tunnel is on the Char Dham pilgrimage route, one of the most ambitious projects of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government.

It aims to connect four major Hindu pilgrimage sites with an 890 km (550 mi) two-lane road at a cost of $1.5 billion.

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