LUCKNOW, India, Nov 15 (Reuters) – Rescue efforts to rescue 40 road workers trapped in a collapsed tunnel in the north Indian mountains for more than three days will soon be helped by a heavy drilling machine landed by air, officials said on Wednesday. .
The workers are safe and rescuers have been able to communicate with them since Sunday’s collapse and pipe in food, water and oxygen, but large rocks have hampered efforts to dig an escape route for them.
A high-powered Auger drilling machine has been flown in from New Delhi, about 400 km to the south, in hopes of drilling through the debris that traps the men.
“The new machine has arrived at the nearby helipad. It is being assembled and will be sent there soon,” said Ashok Kumar, police chief in India’s northern state of Uttarakhand.
The men were working on one of the most ambitious projects of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist government, the Sar Dham Highway, which aims to connect four Hindu pilgrimage sites in the mountains through 890 km (550 miles) of roads at a cost of $1.5 million. billion.
Up to 60 people were on the night shift in the 4.5-km (3-mile) tunnel when the tunnel collapsed at dawn.
The men at the end of the tunnel managed to get out in time, but the 40 trapped men were working deep inside.
News agency ANI showed footage of around a dozen angry workers outside the tunnel on Wednesday calling for their colleagues to be rescued quickly.
India’s Himalayas are vulnerable to landslides, earthquakes and floods. Geologists, residents and officials have blamed the rapid construction on the slopes.
The road project faced criticism from environmentalists and some work was halted after hundreds of houses collapsed and were damaged.
Work on the tunnel began in 2018 and was initially scheduled for completion by July 2022. It will be completed by May next year, the government said in a statement.
Reporting by Saurabh Sharma in Lucknow, by Tanvi Mehta and Krishnan Kaushik; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan, Robert Birzel
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