Rescuers are trying to send cooked food and establish a telephone connection to 41 workers trapped for eight days in a collapsed tunnel in the Indian Himalayas, as they explore new rescue plans after previous efforts failed, officials said Monday.
The men have been stuck in the highway tunnel in Uttarakhand state since it caved in early Nov. 12 and are safe, authorities said. They have access to light and supplies of oxygen, dry food, water and medicine are sent through a tube.
Authorities expect a second 6-inch pipeline to be drilled into the debris to deliver cooked food will soon be ready, with 42 meters of the roughly 60 meters already completed, said Bhaskar Khulbe, special duty officer for the tunnel project. .
“Our priority is to save 41 lives trapped inside the tunnel. Through this (pipeline) we will be able to send them the necessary things,” federal road transport minister Nitin Gadkari told reporters on Sunday.
Officials are also looking at building a fiber optic link through that pipeline, Gadkari added, which can be used to insert a camera or phone connection into the tunnel to help workers talk to their families.
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The men are currently receiving nuts, puffed rice, chickpeas and other dry food products through a tube and district medical officer RCS Panwar said three of them complained of dysentery.
Rescuers are exploring five new plans to get the workers out after a machine that drilled horizontally through the wreckage to make room for the men got stuck and a sudden “pop sound” during restart attempts caused panic.
The new plans include vertical drilling from the top of the mountain, which rescuers hope can begin on Tuesday as they await the arrival of machinery, said Jasvant Kapoor, managing director of state-owned SJVN, which is involved in rescue efforts.
Authorities have not said what caused the 4.5km tunnel to collapse, but the area is prone to landslides, earthquakes and flooding.
Fifty to 60 workers were on the night shift at the time of the collapse and those near the exit walked out of the tunnel onto the national highway that is part of the Char Dham Hindu route.
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