NewsTrapped Indian workers await rescue in tunnel, Thai experts en route

Trapped Indian workers await rescue in tunnel, Thai experts en route

Rescuers are trying to free the trapped workers.
Rescuers are trying to free the trapped workers.
Images source: © Uttarakhand State Disaster Response Force
3:08 PM EST, November 16, 2023

Forty road workers remain trapped in a tunnel under construction in the Himalayas, unable to be reached by Indian rescue services. Recognizing the need for specialized assistance, Indian authorities have contacted cave experts from Thailand who, in 2018, played a key role in rescuing a boys' soccer team trapped in a flooded cave.

The workers became trapped following a tunnel collapse in the northern state of Uttarakhand on Sunday. They were part of a construction crew employed for road construction. Rescue attempts have persisted for several days since the disaster.

On Thursday, high-powered drilling equipment was sourced from the country's capital, New Delhi, to aid rescue efforts. Before this, rescuers had attempted to reach the trapped men by clearing the extensive debris.

Near the tunnel's entrance, the trapped workers' relatives are growing increasingly frustrated, vocalizing their anger at the perceived incompetence of the rescue teams and the perceived inaction of the authorities.

Applying pressure from the mounting frustration surrounding the rescue operation, authorities have pledged to seek help from the international community. CNN reports that specialists are en route to the Uttarkashi district where they will bolster the efforts of the already operational Indian rescue teams.

Thai experts aid in rescuing trapped Indian road workers

"Specialists from the Norwegian Geotechnical Institute and spelunkers from Thailand are on their way. The Thais had previously taken part in the 2018 rescue mission to save a children's soccer team trapped within a flooded cave," revealed Kirti Panwar, an information specialist for the Uttarkashi district.

During that situation, twelve young soccer players and their coach were rescued after three weeks stranded in the Tham Luang cave. The boys could not escape from the cave when rising water levels blocked their exit and required a specialist team of cave divers for rescue.

The trapped workers – all migrant laborers from various states – were employed to execute an ambitious modernization project to upgrade the Indian transport network. CNN pointed out that this immense road construction project, which often operates chaotically, is being undertaken on a massive scale.

This incident underscores these challenges. A catastrophe occurred on the hastily secured construction site. A part of the passageway leading to the entrance collapsed, leaving the men stranded inside the mountain.

Directly after the rock collapse, rescuers made contact with the workers. During the initial rubble-clearing process, initial rescue attempts were thwarted when further rocks cascaded into the shaft.

"The rock structure is quite delicate, but we are persisting with all available techniques. We are exploring every possibility to get our colleagues out safely," assured Anshu Manish Khalkho, the Director of Administration and Finance at the National Highways and Infrastructure Development Corporation.

The trapped men are receiving oxygen, water, and food - including dried fruits, rice, and boiled chickpeas - through a small tube installed in the rocks. Doctors are present on the site, providing care for a few men presenting worrying symptoms like headaches and nausea.

While current efforts focus on remedying the accident's effects, the incident has reignited concerns about the project. Environmentalists have consistently warned that the heavy machinery could wreak havoc on the Himalayan region, already suffering the impacts of the climate crisis. Some experts suggest that excessive drilling could destabilize the terrain, leading to more landslides and severe flooding.

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