India Tunnel Collapse: Rescuers Drill Through to Trapped Men
Rescuers have broken through the last meters of debris to reach the 41 workers who have been trapped for more than two weeks. A landslide had caused a portion of the Himalayan tunnel to collapse.
Ambulances and medical teams were on standby at the site in the Himalayan Mountains at the time of the rescue.
The men, trapped for the past 17 days, had access to essential supplies like light, oxygen, food, water, and medicines, according to officials.
"Soon, all the laborer brothers will be taken out," Pushkar Singh Dhami, Uttarakhand state chief minister, posted on the social media platform X, formerly known as Twitter.
Manual drilling after machines break down
On Monday, manual "rat miners" were brought in to drill through rocks and gravel by hand after machinery failed, making significant overnight progress, officials said.
These miners specialize in a risky, controversial method often used for coal mining in tight spaces.
Earlier, the operations faced setbacks in the final stages of excavation.
A drilling machine broke after hitting a metal object, causing significant delay.
On Sunday, rescuers began constructing a vertical shaft using a new drill, requiring the removal of almost twice the amount of dirt and debris needed for a horizontal dig.
What is the Uttarakhand tunnel project?
The workers, mostly migrant laborers from across the country, have been trapped since November 12, when a landslide caused a portion of the 4.5-kilometer (2.8-mile) tunnel to collapse.
The collapse occurred approximately 200 meters from its entrance, as reported by PTI news agency, citing official sources.
When the incident happened at night, there were about 50 to 60 workers present. Those who were near the tunnel's exit managed to escape, but the others were left trapped.
This tunnel is a part of the Char Dham Project, launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The project aims to improve access to prominent Hindu pilgrimage sites and regions near the Chinese border.
The Indian government announced last week that the National Highways Authority of India will conduct a safety audit of 29 tunnels currently under construction to prevent similar incidents in the future.