(CTN News) – On Saturday, rescuers from India used a new digging machine to open a vertical hole and free 41 workers who had been trapped within a collapsed road tunnel for two weeks. Previous attempts to reach the guys through another path had found snags just meters away.
Engineers were trying to rescue the workers, who were becoming increasingly desperate when they encountered metal rods and subterranean construction trucks while driving a metal pipe through 57 meters of rock and concrete.
Using gas-cutting instruments to remove strong metal girders from inside the restricted conduit, which is only wide enough for a man to crawl through, is challenging, and drilling with a gigantic earth-boring machine has halted just 9 meters from breaking through.
According to Abhishek Ruhela, a senior local official, “Work is now being done to cut and clear the blocage” (AFP, Saturday).
According to Arnold Dix, president of the International Tunnelling and Underground Space Association, efforts are being made to remove the primary drilling machine.
“The equipment has malfunctioned. It’s beyond repair. “It is disrupted,” he said, reporters gathered at the tunnel sites.
As long as there were “many ways” to reach the men, Dix, who is helping with the rescue, would not give up hope.
“The 41 men are returning home, I am sure of it.”
Falling debris and the recurrent malfunctions of critical heavy drilling equipment have made rescue operations extremely sluggish; twice, the air force had to airlift new equipment.
A field hospital and ambulances are ready to treat the men who have been trapped since November 12, when part of the Silkyara tunnel in Uttarakhand, a northern state, collapsed while it was still under construction.
While this was happening, AFP journalists on the scene witnessed a large earth digger being guided up a specially cut track to the peak of a hill above the tunnel, where a precarious vertical shaft was about to be inaugurated.
Ruhela informed AFP that they are “in the final stages” of their efforts to reach the stranded laborers.
“We are exploring all potential avenues to contact them.”
A complicated dig above the men in an area that has already collapsed would be required for the proposed vertical shaft, which officials estimate would need to be 89 meters deep.
Another considerably longer third path, believed to be around 480 meters long, has also started to be dug from the opposite side of the road tunnel.
The chief minister of Uttarakhand, Pushkar Singh Dhami, announced that teams of international specialists and government officials were exploring all possible solutions.
In a social media message, he assured that they will soon be able to securely evacuate their fellow workers.
When the last bit of debris stops the weary men from escaping, rescuers have wheeled stretchers at the ready to drag them through 57 meters of pipe.
Workers were spotted for the first time on Tuesday, looking through an endoscopic camera that rescuers had sent down a narrow tube that supplies oxygen, food, drink, and power.
On multiple occasions since Wednesday, officials have expressed optimism that a breakthrough will be achieved within the next few hours. Timelines are “subject to change due to technical glitches, the challenging Himalayan terrain, and unforeseen emergencies,” according to a government statement.
Their endeavors were “like battle,” according to Syed Ata Hasnain, a retired general and top welfare administrator.
In an interview with reporters on Friday afternoon, he vowed to “get these brave men out” and assured them that “all resources” were being used.
“We will proceed with extreme caution,” he said.
Despite being confined, there is an abundance of room within the tunnel, which is around two kilometers long and 8.5 meters high.