Drilling through the rubble in Uttarakhand’s Silkyara tunnel, to create an escape passage for the trapped workers, has resumed after an iron mesh that came in the way of the auger machine was removed, PTI reported on Thursday.

“The mesh has been cut by the use of iron cutters,” PTI quoted Bhaskar Khulbe, a former advisor in the prime minister’s office, as saying.

Khulbe said that it will take 12 hours to 14 hours more to complete the drilling and reach the workers.

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 in Uttarakhand’s Uttarkashi district is part of the Char Dham Road Project to build all-weather roads in the state.

The drilling of 800 mm-diameter steel pipes through the rubble had been halted after hitting the iron mesh on Wednesday. The process of pushing the pipe, as an escape passage, resumed after the hurdle was removed, officials said.

Arrangements have been made to provide immediate medical care to the workers once they are evacuated, officials said. A 41-bed ward has been readied at the community health centre in Chinyalisaur town and 41 ambulances are waiting outside the tunnel, officials added.

On Tuesday, the rescuers established audio and visual communication with the workers.

“On this side, we are using headphones to talk to them,” Uttarakhand Government Secretary Neeraj Khairwal said. “Using this channel, our doctors talked to them and asked for their well-being. Some of them complained of constipation, and medicines were provided.”

On Thursday, Uttarakhand Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami said that he had spoken to the workers to enquire about their well-being and informed them that rescue efforts were proceeding swiftly.

Also read: Uttarakhand tunnel collapse highlights the precarity of migrant workers