Silkyara, India, Nov. 21 (Reuters) – The first images of 41 people trapped in a highway tunnel in the Indian Himalayas for more than a week emerged on Tuesday, showing them standing in a confined space and communicating with rescue workers.
Officials said the men had been trapped in the 4.5-km (3-mile) tunnel in Uttarakhand state since the early morning hours of November 12 and were safe with access to light, oxygen, food, water and medicine.
They did not say what caused the cave-in, but the area is vulnerable to landslides, earthquakes and floods. Efforts to bring the 41 people out have been slowed by delays in drilling through debris in the mountainous terrain.
A 30-second video released by authorities showed a dozen men, wearing helmets and construction worker jackets, standing in a semicircle in front of the camera against the backdrop of lights in the tunnel.
A rescue worker outside could be heard telling the men to appear in front of the camera one by one to confirm their identities on walkie-talkie gear sent inside.
Officials said the video was captured by a medical endoscopy camera pushed through a second, wider tube about 6 inches (15 cm) in diameter drilled through the debris on Monday.
In the clip, those trapped appeared to be fine and answered questions about their well-being saying they were fine, an official in the rescue control room told Reuters on condition of anonymity.
Rescuers were set to drill horizontally through the 60-meter (195-foot) pile on Tuesday to pass through a pipe large enough for trapped men to crawl out.
Drilling was suspended on Friday due to mechanical failure and fears of a new collapse.
Officials are simultaneously working on five other plans to pull workers out, including drilling vertically from the mountaintop.
Abhishek Sharma, a psychiatrist sent to the site by the state government, said he asked the 41 men to walk the 2-km (1.2-mile) area where they were confined, do light yoga exercises and talk to each other constantly. Occupied.
“Sleep is very important for them … Now they are sleeping well, there is no difficulty in sleeping,” Sharma told Reuters, adding that the men were in good spirits and eager to come out soon.
Another doctor at the site, Prem Pokhri, said the men were asked to avoid strenuous exercise, which increases the accumulation of carbon dioxide gas in a confined space while breathing.
The trapped men are low-wage laborers, most of them from poorer states in India’s north and east.
Sunitha Hembrom, sister-in-law of Surendra Kisco, one of the workers trapped in the tunnel, told reporters after speaking to him.
“He said, ‘Take care of yourselves, the children, and the parents. Tell us what they are doing to get us out of here.’
Reporting by Saurabh Sharma in Silkyara; Written by YP Rajesh; Editing by Clarence Fernandez
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