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Rescue efforts intensified on Thursday to save 40 men trapped for five days in a collapsed highway tunnel in India, with advanced drilling equipment being used to navigate through rock and soil debris. The rescue operation in Uttarakhand’s northern state faced challenges due to the complex terrain.
Authorities, who have brought in a sophisticated drilling machine from New Delhi, are working to expedite the rescue process. Their strategy involves drilling through the debris to create a passage for a pipe, enabling the trapped men to crawl to safety. The collapsed tunnel, spanning 4.5 kilometers, is a segment of the Char Dham highway, a significant infrastructure project under Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government. This $1.5 billion initiative aims to connect four Hindu pilgrimage sites with 890 kilometers of roads.
As of Thursday evening, the drilling had progressed through approximately 12 meters of debris, with about 60 meters still to cover. The machine, capable of drilling 2 to 2.5 meters per hour, has encountered various obstacles, including boulders, rods, and cement blocks. According to Devendra Singh Patwal, a disaster management officer, maintaining the alignment of the drilling is a significant challenge, prolonging the rescue operation.
On the 1st Monday of the Samvat New Year, while most are still savouring their family Diwali celebrations from yesterday , these teams are working ceaselessly to rescue the workers trapped in the Uttarakhand Tunnel. They’re my #MondayMotivation pic.twitter.com/njOzaLj9i9— anand mahindra (@anandmahindra) November 13, 2023
Any deviation in alignment could necessitate restarting the drilling process. The cause of the tunnel collapse remains unspecified, but the region is known for landslides, earthquakes, and floods.