Indian rescuers drill through rubble to reach workers trapped in collapsed tunnel

Rescuers in northern India supplied food and medicine to 40 construction workers on Thursday as officials started drilling through the rubble to reach the men who have been trapped since a portion of the tunnel they were working on collapsed over the weekend.Rescuers planned to insert wide steel pipes to create a passage to free the workers trapped since early Sunday in the mountainous Uttarakhand state. A new drilling machine was assembled after three Indian air force transport aircraft flew its parts in from New Delhi on Wednesday.The American Auger machine will be used to drill a stretch of nearly 45 meters and rescuers hope to reach the trapped workers by Friday night or Saturday, said Devendra Patwal, a disaster management relief official.INDIAN RESCUERS LOCATE 40 WORKERS TRAPPED INSIDE COLLAPSED TUNNEL BY LANDSLIDE People watch rescue and relief operations at the site of an under-construction road tunnel that collapsed in mountainous Uttarakhand state, India, on Nov. 15, 2023. Rescuers have been trying to drill wide pipes through excavated rubble to create a passage to free 40 construction workers trapped since Sunday. (AP Photo)MORE THAN 30 DEAD, 18 INJURED AFTER BUS PLUNGES INTO GORGE IN INDIAA machine used earlier in the week was found to be slow in pushing the pipes through the debris, a state government statement said on Wednesday.”We are hopeful that all individuals trapped inside will be safely rescued within a day or two,” said Pushkar Singh Dhami, the top elected official in Uttarakhand state.The stranded workers are being provided with cashew nuts, peanuts, soaked and roasted chickpeas, popcorn, and medicines every two hours, said Devendra Patwal, a disaster management relief official.Some complained of fever and body aches on Wednesday, but there has been no deterioration in their condition, he said.Yogesh, who uses one name. cut short his Diwali celebrations and rushed to the collapsed tunnel when he learned that his brother was trapped. He spoke to Vishal, his brother, on Wednesday.”He sounded tense but said he was okay. He asked about the rescue operation, and I told him that it is going on a war footing,” said Yogesh.Anshu Manish Khalko, a National Highways and Infrastructure Development Corporation official, said he expected the drilling operation to start sometime Thursday.”Once operational, this machine will facilitate the creation of an escape tunnel quickly to ensure evacuation of the trapped laborers,” he said.On Wednesday, relatives and friends of the trapped workers gathered outside the tunnel and were seen growing frustrated and angry. The state government has been consulting with the Indian army and foreign experts on ways to proceed with the rescue.State officials have contacted Thai experts who helped rescue a junior association football team that was trapped in a cave system in northern Thailand in 2018, state government administrator Gaurav Singh said. They also have approached the Norwegian Geotechnical Institute for possible help, Singh said.INDIA MAY BE MOVING TO CHANGE ITS NAME TO ANCIENT SANSKRIT TERM, G-20 INVITATION SUGGESTSAbout 200 disaster relief personnel have been at the site using drilling equipment and excavators in the rescue operation, with the plan to push 75-centimeter-wide steel pipes through an opening of excavated debris.Falling debris lightly injured two rescue workers, and delayed operations on Tuesday and Wednesday. No fresh landslide has occurred since Tuesday.A landslide during road construction caused a portion of the 4.5-kilometer tunnel to collapse about 200 meters from the entrance. It is a hilly tract of land, prone to landslide and subsidence.Uttarakhand is a mountainous state dotted with Hindu temples that attract many pilgrims and tourists and construction of highways and buildings has been constant to accommodate the influx.The tunnel is part of the busy Chardham all-weather road, a flagship federal project connecting various Hindu pilgrimage sites.

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