Rescuers Await Arrival of New Drill in Continued Efforts to Free 40 Workers Trapped in Indian Tunnel

by Sophia Chen
Indian tunnel rescue

For a week now, 40 laborers remain trapped within a collapsed road tunnel in northern India. Rescuers are anticipating the arrival of a replacement drilling machine to renew their efforts. The collapse occurred last Saturday, and since then, the rescue team has faced numerous challenges.

The drilling process was halted on Friday due to damage to some machine bearings, a consequence of rock breakage and debris removal, according to officials. This complication has further prolonged the already extensive rescue operation.

Vijay Singh, an official in the control room, reported that a new drilling machine is expected to arrive at the site later in the day, which would allow rescue efforts to resume.

Devendra Patwal, a disaster management official, stated that drilling, which began on Thursday, has made progress through 24 meters (79 feet) of rubble. However, an estimated 60 meters (197 feet) of drilling is required for the workers’ escape route. This information was shared with The Big Big News on Friday.

Earlier in the week, the rescuers were hopeful of completing the drilling by Friday night, intending to construct an escape passage using welded pipes. However, the operation encountered a setback due to a sudden loud noise within the tunnel, resulting in damage to the drilling machine, as revealed by Tarun Kumar Baidya, director at the National Highways and Infrastructure Development Corporation Limited.

As the rescue mission enters its seventh day, the frustration and distress of the trapped workers’ families are intensifying. Many relatives from different states have been vigilantly waiting near the tunnel for updates, their anxiety exacerbated by the recent delays.

Krishna Patel, the uncle of a 20-year-old trapped worker, expressed his disappointment with the fluctuating rescue timelines.

Despite reports of fever and body aches among some workers on Wednesday, officials maintain that their condition remains stable. Efforts to provide sustenance and medication through a pipe every two hours are ongoing.

Patwal noted that two doctors on-site are consistently monitoring the trapped workers’ physical and mental health. He emphasized the commitment to maintaining the morale of both the rescuers and the trapped individuals during this challenging time.

The workers were trapped last Sunday following a landslide that caused a section of the 4.5-kilometer (2.8-mile) tunnel, located about 200 meters (650 feet) from the entrance, to collapse. The area, known for its susceptibility to landslides, is in Uttarakhand, a state characterized by its mountainous terrain and numerous Hindu temples.

The tunnel is a part of the Chardham all-weather road, a significant federal project designed to connect various Hindu pilgrimage sites.

Approximately 200 disaster relief personnel are at the site, equipped with drilling machines and excavators. They plan to insert steel pipes measuring 80 centimeters (2.6 feet) in diameter through the cleared debris.

Earlier in the week, the slow progress of an initial machine prompted its replacement with an American Auger, capable of drilling up to 5 meters (16 feet) per hour. This machine also features a 99-centimeter (3.2-foot) diameter pipe for debris clearance. Another such machine is awaited to replace the one that suffered damage.

In seeking additional expertise, state officials have reached out to Thai experts who were involved in the 2018 rescue of a youth soccer team in Thailand, as well as the Norwegian Geotechnical Institute, according to Gaurav Singh, a state government administrator.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Indian tunnel rescue

Where did the tunnel collapse occur in India?

The tunnel collapse occurred in northern India, specifically in the mountainous state of Uttarakhand, which is known for its hilly terrain and numerous Hindu temples.

How many workers are trapped in the collapsed tunnel?

A total of 40 workers have been trapped in the collapsed tunnel.

For how long have the workers been trapped in the tunnel?

The workers have been trapped in the tunnel for a week.

What challenges have the rescuers faced in their efforts to free the trapped workers?

Rescuers have faced several challenges, including damaged machinery due to rock breakage and debris removal, and the need for extensive drilling through the rubble.

What is the expected requirement for the rescue operation in terms of drilling?

It is estimated that up to 60 meters (197 feet) of drilling is required to create an escape route for the trapped workers.

Have there been any health concerns for the trapped workers?

Some workers reported feeling fever and body aches, but officials have stated there has been no significant deterioration in their overall condition.

What kind of assistance is being provided to the trapped workers?

Nuts, roasted chickpeas, popcorn, and medicine are being sent to the trapped workers via a pipe every two hours, and two doctors at the site are monitoring their physical and mental health.

What is the significance of the tunnel where the collapse occurred?

The tunnel is part of the Chardham all-weather road, a key federal project connecting various Hindu pilgrimage sites in India.

More about Indian tunnel rescue

  • Rescue operation for trapped workers in Indian tunnel
  • Challenges in the Uttarakhand tunnel collapse rescue
  • Health and well-being of workers in collapsed tunnel
  • Chardham all-weather road project details

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Amit Patel November 18, 2023 - 6:22 am

This is why we need better safety standards in construction, especaily in hilly areas like Uttarakhand. hope the workers are ok.

Rajesh Kumar November 18, 2023 - 10:29 am

wow, this is really a tough situation for the rescue team. i hope they can get those workers out soon, it’s been already a week!

Vikram Bhatia November 18, 2023 - 11:28 am

heard about the tunnel collapse, this kind of accident is becoming too common, isn’t it? the authorities really need to look into infrastructure safety.

Sunita Singh November 18, 2023 - 8:48 pm

Can’t imagine what the families are going through. Praying for the safety of all trapped. the government needs to do more in such cases.

Anjali Rao November 19, 2023 - 12:53 am

It’s so sad, these workers are often forgotten heroes building our roads and cities. praying for their safe return.

Deepa Mehta November 19, 2023 - 1:37 am

Just read about the rescue operation, it’s heart wrenching. Does anyone know how we can help the families of the trapped workers?


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