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Indian rescuers hit snags in a two-week bid to free 41 tunnel workers

Neelam Rahim |

3-minute read
28 November 2023 | 16:56 CAT

Rescue personnel move a digging machine during rescue operation for workers trapped in the Silkyara under construction road tunnel, days after it collapsed in the Uttarkashi district of India’s Uttarakhand state on November 25, 2023.(Photo by Arun SANKAR / AFP)

Indian rescuers have brought in a new manual digging machine to open a vertical shaft to free 41 workers trapped Inside a collapsed road runner for two weeks after efforts through another route hit snags just meters from reaching the men.

In the latest setback in frantic attempts to rescue the increasingly desperate workers, engineers driving a metal pipe through 57 metres of rock and concrete ran into metal rods and construction vehicles buried in the earth.

Just 9m from breaking through, drilling with a giant earth-boring machine has stalled while using gas-cutting tools to remove thick metal girders inside the confined pipe — just wide enough for a man to crawl through — is tricky.

Arnold Dix, president of the International Tunnelling and Underground Space Association, said the main drilling machine was broken, and work was ongoing to remove it.

“The machine has broken. It’s irreparable. It is disrupted,” he told reporters at the tunnel site.

Rescue efforts have been painfully slow, complicated by falling debris and repeated breakdowns of crucial heavy drilling machines, with the Air Force having to airlift new kit twice.

Ambulances are on standby, and a field hospital has been prepared to receive the men trapped since a portion of the under-construction Silkyara tunnel in the northern state of Uttarakhand caved in on November 12.

Listen to the full interview on The Daily Round-Up with Moulana Junaid Kharsany.



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