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‘Difficult Terrain’: Rescue Effort for 40 Workers Stuck in Caved-in Tunnel in India Enters 7th Day

Efforts to rescue at least 40 workers trapped in a northern Indian mine entered their seventh day on Saturday as rescuers move with “extreme caution” in the fragile mine tunnels under the Himalayan mountain, according to officials.

“The rescuers are dealing with an difficult terrain. There could be a boulders or any other obstacles as we proceed further,” a senior official involved in the operation in Uttarakhand state to save the workers trapped by a collapsed tunnel told Anadolu on Saturday morning.

“Everyone is working hard, putting their efforts to ensure the workers are brought safely out,” he said, adding that several rescue agencies were involved in the operation being conducted as part of a “proper strategy.”

He also said it was difficult to say how long it would take to bring the workers out. “We are keeping our fingers crossed and waiting for their safe return as soon as possible.”

The remarks came after officials from the state-run National Highways and Infrastructure Development Corporation, the main body involved in the tunnel’s construction, on Friday underlined the need to “reinforce” the strategy to ensure “nothing goes wrong midway through.”

A massive operation has been underway in the Uttarkashi district since last Sunday morning, when the collapse of the under-construction Silkyara Tunnel trapped the workers who were there at the time “based on the contractor tunnel entry register,” according to India’s Road Transport and Highways Ministry.

The tunnel was being built for a national highway that will be part of the Char Dham Hindu pilgrimage route — one of the most ambitious projects of the ruling Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) government. The Indian government has said construction would ensure all-weather connectivity and cut the journey’s length down by 25.6 kilometers (15.9 miles), particularly in snow-affected regions.

India’s National Disaster Response Force, Uttrakhand’s State Disaster Response Force, and several other federal agencies are among those currently involved in rescue work.

Environmental experts in India have been urging caution in the construction work, pointing to the ecological fragility and young terrain of the Himalayan region.

The trapped workers are being provided water, oxygen, and medicine on regular basis, according to Devendra Patwal, a disaster official at the site.

He told Anadolu on Saturday that in the roughly 40-meter (131-feet) length of the tunnel that had collapsed, 24 meters had been drilled through. Patwal added that the rescue agencies were in touch with top national and international experts.

Rescue affected by roadblocks

Roadblocks in the mountainous area have only added to the problems faced by the rescuers.

On Saturday, the state’s top elected official Pushkar Singh Dhami said he reviewed the rescue operations.

“Officers were directed to take every necessary step to deal with the obstacles coming in the rescue operation,” he said on X.

“Evacuating all the workers trapped in the tunnel safely is the top priority of our government and we are working rapidly in this direction,” added Dhami.

Officials said a second giant drill would reach the site on Saturday to resume drilling operations at the site after an earlier machine had developed a glitch on Friday, local media reported.

The Indian Air Force said on Friday night that it continued efforts to assist the rescue underway at Uttarakhand.

“An IAF C-17 has been deployed to airlift almost 22 tonnes of critical equipment from Indore (Madhya Pradesh) to Dehradun (Uttarakhand),” the air force said on X.

Local news broadcaster NDTV said drilling work had paused on Friday after “a large-scale cracking sound was heard by officials and the team working inside the tunnel and created a panic situation in the tunnel as well as to the team working.”

Source : aa