41 workers inside a collapsed road tunnel have been seen alive for the first time amid attempts to build new routes to free them.
The first images of 41 men trapped for 10 days in a highway tunnel in the Indian Himalayas have emerged, showing them standing in a confined space and talking to rescuers.
A 30-second video released by authorities on Tuesday shows about a dozen of the trapped men standing in a semi-circle in front of an endoscopic camera, wearing helmets and construction worker jackets. in their clothes against the backdrop of tunnel lights.
The men looked tired and worried, some with thick beards, while a rescue worker outside could be heard telling them to present themselves one by one to confirm their identities on walkie-talkie gear. sent.
“We’ll get you out safely, don’t worry,” rescuers can be heard telling the men as they gather near the camera.
The video was taken by a medical endoscopy camera pushed into a second, wider pipeline 15cm (6 inches) in diameter, drilled through the debris on Monday, authorities said.
Before the camera was introduced, the rescuers spoke to the men inside using radios.
‘Take care of yourself’
The 41 men have been trapped in the 4.5km (3-mile) tunnel in Uttarakhand state since it collapsed early on November 12 and are safe, authorities said, with access to light, oxygen, food, water and medicine.
They have not said what caused the cave, but the region is prone to landslides, earthquakes and floods. Efforts to evacuate workers have been slowed by snags in drilling waste in the mountainous terrain.
Rescuers were set on Tuesday to continue drilling horizontally through a 60-meter (195-ft) pile of rubble to push a pipe large enough for the trapped men to crawl out. .
Drilling was suspended on Friday after a machine broke down and there were fears of a new collapse.
Authorities are simultaneously working on five other plans to pull workers, including drilling vertically from the top of the mountain.
Abhishek Sharma, a psychiatrist sent to the site by the state government, said he asked the 41 men to walk within the 2km (1.2-mile) area where they were confined, do light yoga exercises and constantly talk to themselves to stay occupied.
“Sleep is very important for them … and so far they have been sleeping well and no sleep problems have been reported,” Sharma told Reuters, adding that the men were in good spirits and wanted to go out. soon.
Another doctor at the site, Prem Pokhriyal, said the men were asked to avoid strenuous exercises that could increase the accumulation of carbon dioxide gas in the trapped space as they breathe.
The trapped people are low-wage workers, most of them from India’s impoverished northern and eastern states.
“He said he did well,” Sunita Hembrom, the sister-in-law of one of the workers trapped in the tunnel, Surendra Kisko, told reporters after speaking with him.
“He said, ‘Take care of yourselves, the children and parents. Just tell us what they did to get us out of here.’”
Experts have warned about the effects of extensive construction in Uttarakhand, where many parts of the state are prone to landslides.
The planned tunnel is part of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s infrastructure plans aimed at cutting travel times between some of the country’s most popular Hindu sites, as well as improving access to strategic border areas. in opposition to China.
Foreign experts were drafted in, including independent Australian disaster investigator Arnold Dix, president of the International Tunneling and Underground Space Association.
“Those 41 men are going home,” Dix told the Press Trust of India news agency. “When exactly? Not sure.”