Himachal Pradesh: 140 Hours And Counting. Men Trapped in Tunnel Wait For Rescue

Bilaspur (NDTV): For over 140 hours, three men have been trapped deep inside a tunnel that collapsed on Saturday night in the hills of Himachal Pradesh.

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Efforts to rescue them looked promising after two of the men showed up on a CCTV camera that had been inserted down a pipe yesterday.

“We can survive for another 7-8 days…Please keep going,” one of the men, Satish Tomar, pleaded, worried that rescue teams may give up. Next to him, Maniram nodded silently. They are clinging to hope; their third companion Hriday Ram is missing since a large section of the tunnel they were working on caved in, bringing boulders crashing down.

The 1200 meter tunnel is being built as part of a four-lane highway project that is expected to vastly improve travel in the hilly terrain. Most of the men working on it were able to come out safely when a part of it suddenly gave way.

Cashew nuts, almonds, glucose biscuits and water are being pushed down a pipe for the survivors.

At the accident site around 110 km from the capital Shimla, villagers have been monitoring the slow and painstaking rescue. In red plastic chairs under a tent, family members of the trapped men wait for good news. Only the disaster response team, doctors and road experts know what is really going on.

For four days, rescue teams tried to dig a path through to the tunnel by removing boulders, mud and debris. They abandoned that approach yesterday after dry rock gave way to slush, making it difficult to dig. Now they are trying vertical drilling. A rig used for oil exploration was brought in from Jaipur last night.

“So far we have managed to drill up to 28 metres. We need to go another 20 metres. We should reach the men in 24 hours,” said a senior district official, Manasi Sahay Thakur.

The contractor for the project is being investigated by a special team.

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