Over one hundred rescue workers in northern India have been tirelessly engaged for the third consecutive day in an effort to save workers trapped underground after a road tunnel they were constructing collapsed. The dramatic incident occurred in the Himalayan state of Uttarakhand, where excavators have been working ceaselessly since Sunday to clear debris and create an escape tunnel for the 40 workers, all of whom have been reported alive. As the operation unfolds, there is optimism as contact has been established with the trapped workers, and crucial supplies of oxygen and food are being provided through the tunnel. The State Disaster Response Force (SDRF) reported successful communication with the workers via radio, indicating progress in the rescue efforts.
The situation unfolded when the tunnel, part of a significant infrastructure project between the towns of Silkyara and Dandalgaon connecting two holy Hindu shrines, collapsed on Sunday. The 4.5-kilometer tunnel, a key element of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s initiative to enhance travel conditions between prominent Hindu shrines and areas bordering China, became a site of intense rescue operations. The trapped workers, who have now been in the tunnel for several days, are undergoing efforts to ensure their survival, with oxygen being pumped in and essential food items provided to sustain them during the rescue process.
A rescue operations is underway to release 40 workers trapped inside a collapsed under-construction tunnel in India's northern Uttarakhand state pic.twitter.com/4LywLLWRam
— Reuters (@Reuters) November 13, 2023
Hemant Nayak, a construction worker present during the collapse, recounted the harrowing experience, stating that the roof caved in, but he managed to escape the right side of the collapse. He noted that initially, small amounts of dirt falling into the tunnel were disregarded, but suddenly, a substantial volume of debris blocked the passage. Government rescue teams released photographs showcasing the challenging conditions, with large piles of rubble obstructing the wide tunnel.
As rescue teams employ heavy machinery to drive a steel pipe, providing a narrow passage for the trapped workers to navigate through the debris, optimism is growing that the operation could lead to a successful outcome. Ranjit Kumar Sinha, a senior disaster management official, expressed hope that the workers could be freed by Wednesday, highlighting that there is enough oxygen to sustain them for the next several days.
The tunnel collapse incident adds to a concerning pattern of accidents on large infrastructure projects in India. In January, Uttarakhand faced a devastating disaster as flash floods claimed at least 200 lives, a catastrophe attributed in part to excessive development. As the rescue operation continues to unfold in Uttarakhand, authorities remain vigilant in their efforts to ensure the safety and well-being of the trapped workers, underscoring the critical importance of swift and effective responses in the face of such emergencies.