Indian rescuers close in on workers trapped in Himalayan tunnel

The men have been stuck in the 4.5-km (3-mile) tunnel in Uttarakhand state since it caved in early on Nov 12

Reuters
Published : 22 Nov 2023, 04:31 PM
Updated : 22 Nov 2023, 04:31 PM

Rescuers hope to drill through the last third of the debris blocking a collapsed tunnel in the Indian Himalayas by early on Thursday to reach 41 workers trapped for ten days, an official said, so long as there are no new hurdles.

The men have been stuck in the 4.5-km (3-mile) tunnel in Uttarakhand state since it caved in early on Nov 12 and are safe, authorities have said, with access to light, oxygen, food, water and medicines.

Authorities have not said what caused the tunnel collapse, but the region is prone to landslides, earthquakes and floods. Efforts to bring the men out have been slowed by snags in drilling in the mountainous terrain.

By Wednesday, rescuers drilled through 42 m (130 ft) of an estimated 60 m (197 ft) that need to be cleared in order to push through a pipe wide enough for the men to crawl out, said Mahmood Ahmed, an official of the firm building the tunnel.

"Many hurdles can emerge, but if they don’t, we hope that by late in the night or early tomorrow we all will get some good news," Ahmed, the managing director of the National Highways and Infrastructure Development Corporation (NHIDCL), told reporters.

Possible obstructions in the debris could include large boulders, stones and metal girders, he said, adding that welding together the evacuation pipe needed more time than drilling.