‘Cracking Sound’ Halts Rescue Effort for 40 Indian Workers Trapped Inside Tunnel
Forty men have been stuck in the hillside tunnel after a cave in last Sunday blocked their exit.
Efforts to rescue 40 workers trapped in a hillside tunnel in Uttarkashi, India, were temporarily suspended
after a “large-scale cracking sound” was heard as rescuers attempted to drill towards the men.
India’s National Highways and Infrastructure Development Corporation Limited (NHIDCL), which is spearheading the rescue efforts, updated journalists on the situation in a report issued on Friday.
The drilling machinery hit a snag as efforts were being made to construct a narrow pipe to rescue the workers, according to the NHIDCL. The accompanying cracking noise “created a panic situation in the tunnel as well as to the team working,” stoking fears of further collapse.
“We cannot go fast and risk a second disaster,” said Arnold Dix, president of the International Tunneling and Underground Space Association in Australia. “This situation is extremely dangerous and we must be extremely careful."
Dix’s expert guidance is being sought as authorities in India attempt to rescue the workers.
There is a “strong possibility of further collapse,” noted the NHIDCL report. A meeting has been scheduled by members of the rescue team to plan the next steps in the effort. Meanwhile, several family members of the workers have been camping nearby as they await news of the situation.
At present, a narrow pipe allows the workers to receive food, water, medicine, and oxygen while they are able to communicate with walkie-talkies.
Falling debris has previously stymied rescue efforts over the past several days. Rescuers were reportedly one-third of the way towards reaching the workers when efforts were paused Friday. Engineers are creating spare bearings for the drilling machine in order to resume efforts, according to NHIDCL Director Anshu Manish Khalkho.
The tunnel project in northern Uttarakhand state is part of the Char Dham highway, one of a number of construction projects undertaken by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s administration.
The nationalist leader’s ambitious projects have included a new parliament building and the Statue of Unity, which currently stands as the world’s tallest statue. The massive monument, which is twice the height of the Statue of Liberty, is 597 feet tall and depicts the Indian independence leader Vallabhbhai Patel.