The voices of the 41 trapped people are increasingly weaker. Outside the partially collapsed highway tunnel in India, their desperate families wait, clinging to any glimmer of hope. Rescuers have been trying to free the men from their prison under the mountain for days.
“If necessary, take our house and land, but please return our son safely,” the family of laborer Pushkar Singh Airi, 22, told the “India Today” media group.
The rescuers are at least in contact with the men. They also receive oxygen, water and food, but only through a very narrow tube. Indian media reported that it fits dried fruits and popcorn. Trapped workers are also given medication. Among other things, they now suffer from headaches, constipation and claustrophobia.
Trapped behind dozens of meters of debris
Construction work on a 4.5 kilometer-long road tunnel was underway when it partially collapsed following a landslide on November 12. The crash site is near the small town of Uttarkashi in the Himalayan state of Uttarakhand, a region with many Hindu temples that attracts pilgrims. The tunnel was intended to improve connections there.
Workers are trapped behind dozens of meters of rubble. Initially, authorities promised a quick rescue. But attempts with different machines repeatedly failed. The scree is hard and the terrain is unsafe. Work on a drilling rig was halted on Friday after a crack was clearly heard opening inside the mountain.
The helpers now try to drill holes from three sides. Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced that it was essential to maintain the morale of men. But it is currently not entirely clear how long they will have to last in a small space. Over the weekend, authorities announced they would provide accommodation, food and medical care for waiting families, as reported by local news agency ANI. Several politicians and officials have already visited the accident site.
Memories of Thailand’s cave drama
The Indian tunnel drama brings back memories of the daring rescue of a youth football team from a suddenly flooded cave in Thailand five years ago. Media from around the world reported for days on the spectacular and highly risky rescue operation in the Tham Luang cave. Eventually, special divers from Britain and Australia, among other places, brought the trapped people to light.
The Indian government has contacted the experts who participated in this successful rescue mission, hoping that there will also be a happy ending for the prisoners in the tunnel. Experts from Norway were also contacted. The good news is that there is still hope. Anurag Jain of the Transport Ministry was convinced: “It will take some time, but eventually we will get them out.”
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