New Delhi, Nov 21 (EFE).- Rescue teams shared Tuesday the first images of the 41 workers trapped since the last 10 days in an under-construction tunnel in the state of Uttarakhand in northern India.
“Rescuers are asking the laborers all of you are alright?” the rescue team members asked the workers, many of them with their helmets.
The video shows a group of workers, first taking the camera out of a pipe and then clustering around it, inside a tunnel lit by several powerful spotlights.
The video was taken after successfully installing a pipe through the debris last Monday, installed to send food and supplies to the workers, Jay Panwar of the Uttarkashi district disaster management agency, told EFE.
The miners were trapped on Nov. 12 while working on the tunnel, part of a highway being built to connect four major Hindu religious sites in the ecologically sensitive Uttarkashi district of the northern state known for its pilgrimage tourism.
Rescue teams managed to contact the trapped workers on the same day and confirmed that nobody was injured. Food and oxygen have been supplied through pipes.
“Take out the camera from the pipe and make it visible to everyone so we know everyone is alright,” said the rescue officials before sending a packet containing the first hot meal for them in days.
Initially, the authorities tried to reach the workers from the tunnel entrance, removing piles of debris with the help of excavators, but fears of new collapses put an end to that plan.
They then transported heavy machinery to dig a hole and fix a pipe almost a meter in diameter.
However, repeated breakdowns forced tunnel boring machines to be replaced several times, delaying the work and even paralyzing it over the weekend.
On Sunday, India’s Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari said the rescue could be over in a couple of days “if the excavator worked properly.”
The accident and slow rescue efforts have sparked opposition criticism and protests by co-workers of those trapped, while the authorities have been trying to keep their moral high.
“We’ve kept constant contact, suggesting activities like yoga, walking, and encouraging conversations among them to maintain high morale,” said psychiatrist Abhishek Sharma, appointed by the government to ensure the mental health of the trapped, told the Indian Express. EFE