Indian workers trapped in a Himalayan tunnel for 10 days seen on camera

Forty-one workers inside a collapsed road tunnel were seen alive for the first time as attempts were made to create new passages to free them.

The first photos have emerged of 41 men trapped for 10 days in a highway tunnel in the Indian Himalayas, showing them standing in the confined space and communicating with rescuers.

The 30-second video released by authorities on Tuesday shows about a dozen trapped men standing in a semicircle in front of an endoscopic camera, wearing hard hats and construction jackets over their clothes, with lights in the tunnel in the background.

The men looked exhausted and anxious, some had bushy beards, and a rescuer could be heard outside telling them to report one by one to confirm their identities via a walkie-talkie.

“We’ll get you out safely, don’t worry,” rescuers can be heard telling the men as they gather near the camera.

Authorities said the video was shot on a medical endoscopy camera that was passed through a second, wider, 15 cm (6 inch) diameter pipeline drilled through the rubble on Monday.

Before the camera was introduced, rescuers communicated with the men inside via radio.

‘Take care’

Authorities said 41 men have been stuck in the 4.5 km (3 mile) long tunnel in the state of Uttarakhand since it collapsed in early November on November 12. Authorities said they were safe and had access to light, oxygen, food, water and medicine.

They did not say what caused the collapse, but the region is prone to landslides, earthquakes and floods. Efforts to extract workers were slowed by obstacles while drilling for debris in the mountainous terrain.

A Hindu priest prays in a makeshift shrine in front of the tunnel entrance [Saurabh Sharma/Reuters]

On Tuesday, rescuers are scheduled to resume drilling horizontally through the 60-foot pile of rubble to push through a pipe large enough for the trapped men to escape.

Drilling was suspended on Friday after damage to machinery and fears of another collapse.

Authorities are working simultaneously on five other plans to get workers out, including vertical drilling from the mountaintop.

Abhishek Sharma, a psychiatrist sent to the scene by the state government, said he asked 41 men to walk within a 2 km (1.2 mile) radius of the area where they are being held, do light yoga exercises and talk to each other regularly to keep themselves occupied. .

“Sleep is very important to them… and so far they are sleeping well and have not reported any sleep problems,” Sharma told Reuters, adding that the men were in a good mood and wanted to leave the house soon.

Another doctor on site, Prem Pokhriyal, said the men were asked to avoid heavy training, which could increase the build-up of carbon dioxide in a confined space when they exhale.

The trapped men are low-wage workers, most of them from poor states in India’s north and east.

“He said he felt fine,” Sunita Hembrom, sister-in-law of one of the workers trapped in the tunnel, Surendra Kisko, told reporters.

“He said, ‘Take care of yourselves, your children and your parents. Just tell us what they’re doing to get us out of here.

Experts have warned of the impact of extensive construction work in Uttarakhand, where large parts of the state are prone to landslides.

The planned tunnel is part of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s infrastructure plans that aim to reduce travel times between some of the country’s most popular Hindu sites, as well as improve access to strategic areas bordering rival China.

Foreign experts were appointed, including independent Australian disaster investigator Arnold Dix, president of the International Tunneling and Underground Space Association.

“These 41 men are going home,” Dix told the Press Trust of India news agency. “When exactly? Uncertain.”


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