Days after an under-construction tunnel collapsed in Uttarakhand, rescue officials on Tuesday released the first visuals of the workers trapped inside.
A part of an under-construction tunnel on the Brahmakhal-Yamunotri national highway collapsed in the early hours of November 12, trapping 41 workers. The tunnel is part of the Char Dham Road Project to build all-weather roads in Uttarakhand.
On Tuesday morning, the rescue team sent an endoscopic camera through an alternative six-inch pipeline and spoke with the workers. They were also provided with a walkie-talkie to communicate with the team.
Breakfast was prepared for the workers and sent in through the pipeline, reported ANI. For the first time since the collapse, they were able to get solid food on Monday. They were also given mobile chargers to establish communication with the families.
The 53-metre-long and six-inch-wide pipeline was pushed through the rubble of the collapsed tunnel on Monday.
“This is just the first breakthrough and only the food pipe is inside,” rescue operation in-charge Colonel Deepak Patil told The Indian Express. “The main job is to get our boys out using the 900 mm [millimetre] pipes. This is just one step, through which we can send them food, mobile phones, chargers, and also talk to them. We have made a list after talking to doctors, and are preparing food based on their suggestions.”
The rescue team had failed twice in installing the six-inch pipe because of a rock they could not get through, said National Highways and Infrastructure Development Corporation Limited Director Anshu Manish Khalkho.
The team managed to reach the tunnel through a vertical drilling machine from the hill. Work on the construction of another small tunnel from the Barkot side by the Tehri Hydroelectric Development Corporation has also begun.
Efforts to drill horizontally through the debris blocking the tunnel at the Silkyara side by the National Highways and Infrastructure Development Corporation Limited are expected to commence by Tuesday evening, according to the Ministry of Road, Transport and Highways.
The Centre said earlier that they have come up with a five-point action plan to rescue the workers.
Transport and Highways Secretary Anurag Jain had said that five different agencies – Oil and Natural Gas Corporation, Sutluj Jal Vidyut Nigam, Rail Vikas Nigam Limited, National Highways and Infrastructure Development Corporation Limited and Tehri Hydro Development Corporation Limited – are working on different aspects of the five-point plan.
Jain said that the Border Roads Organisation has created an access road to the tunnel. They also built a platform at the top of the hill, through which the Rail Vikas Nigam Limited drilled the six-inch vertical pipeline.
Bhaskar Khulbe, former advisor to the prime minister, said on Sunday that the workers are likely to be rescued in four to five days with concerted efforts of the agencies. “But if the gods are kind enough, it could happen even earlier than that,” he added.