As Tunnel Rescue Op Drags On, Centre Official Sets 2-15 Days Timeline

The workers have been stuck in the 4.5-km tunnel in Uttarakhand state since it caved in early on Nov 12.

New Delhi:

Forty-one workers trapped in an Uttarakhand tunnel for 10 days could be pulled out within the next two days with the help of a drilling machine, but if it doesn’t work out the rescue could even stretch to 15 days, a top government officer has said.

The workers have been stuck in the 4.5-km tunnel in Uttarakhand state since it caved in early on November 12. They are being supplied food, water, and medicines through steel pipes.

Road Transport and Highways secretary Anurag Jain said that the American-made Auger drilling machine, which is already in action, is the best option right now and workers could be out within 2.5 days. The auger machine had come across a hard boulder on Friday afternoon, triggering vibrations that forced rescuers to put the operation on hold due to safety concerns.

Mr Jain said that they have kept five other action plans ready, but those could take as long as 12-15 days.

“We are working on all options simultaneously instead of waiting for one option to click. Auger and horizontal boring to create an opening parallel to the tunnel. Creating a horizontal opening could take 12-15 days.”

A 30-second video provided by authorities showed about a dozen of the trapped men standing in a semi-circle in front of the camera, wearing helmets and construction worker jackets over their clothes against the backdrop of the lights in the tunnel. A rescue worker could be heard telling the men to present themselves before the camera one by one, to confirm their identities on the walkie-talkie gear that had been sent in.

In the clip, the trapped men appeared to be doing fine, answering that they were all right in response to queries about their well-being, said one official in the rescue control room.

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