28 Nov 2023

Uttarakhand tunnel collapse: Indian rescuers drill through debris to reach 41 men trapped

9:43 pm on 28 November 2023
Rescue workers stand at an entrance of the under construction road tunnel, days after it collapsed in the Uttarkashi district of India's Uttarakhand state on November 18, 2023. Indian rescuers said on November 18, they had paused efforts to reach 41 men trapped in a collapsed road tunnel after a cracking sound created a "panic situation" over the possibility of a further cave-in.

Rescue workers at the entrance of the tunnel on 18 November. Photo: AFP

Indian rescuers have drilled through rocks and debris to reach 41 workers trapped for 17 days in a collapsed tunnel in the Himalayas, and were set to pull them out one by one to safety, officials said.

The men, low-wage workers from India's poorest states, have been stuck in the 4.5km tunnel in Uttarakhand state since it collapsed on 12 November.

The process of pulling them out, one at a time on wheeled stretchers through a pipe 90cm wide, would take a couple of hours, officials said.

The evacuation pipe has to be pushed through and debris cleared before rescue workers can crawl through and begin getting the men out, they said.

Dozens of rescue workers with ropes and ladders were lined up outside the tunnel and ambulances began arriving to take the 41 men to a hospital about 30km away.

The tunnel is part of the $1.5 billion Char Dham highway, one of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's most ambitious projects, aimed at connecting four Hindu pilgrimage sites through an 890km network of roads.

Authorities have not said what caused the cave-in but the region is prone to landslides, earthquakes and floods.

- Reuters

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