Indian tunnel rescue delayed after drill damaged – with 41 workers still trapped inside


A rescue mission trying to save 41 construction workers from a collapsed tunnel in India has been stopped again.

Late on Friday, a drilling machine being used to rescue the workers trapped in a tunnel in the state of Uttarakhand broke down, forcing an end to the operation.

Arnold Dix, an international expert assisting the rescue in northern India, said: “The machine is busted.

“It is irreparable. The mountain has once again resisted the auger.”

Rescuers were just 30ft from breaking through to the workers before the auger broke, wedging the broken piece of equipment inside the tunnel.

As a result, workers will drill by hand to avoid the auger repeatedly getting stuck on pieces of metal in the debris, and as it would take days for a replacement to arrive.

Pushkar Singh Dhami, the chief minister of Uttarakhand, said the damaged machine would be removed by Sunday.

Syed Ata Hasnain, a member of the National Disaster Management Authority, said the operation was becoming “more complex” and the process would become slower, compared to when the auger was used to drill.

He added: “We have to strengthen our brothers stuck inside.

“We need to monitor their psychological state, because this operation can go on for a very long time.”

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Inside India tunnel rescue

The workers have been trapped since 12 November – almost two weeks – when a landslide caused a section of a 2.8 mile tunnel being built to collapse some 650ft from the entrance.

Authorities have said the workers are safe, with access to light, oxygen, food, water and medicines via two small tunnels.

Mr Dhami also told reporters: “They are in good spirits. They said, ‘take as many days as you require, don’t worry about us’.”

But 13 days into the operation, rescuers have only seen a glimpse of those trapped via the lens of an endoscopic camera.

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Meanwhile, a new drilling machine used to dig vertically was brought to the accident site on Saturday.

The vertical dig is seen as an alternative plan to reach the trapped men, and rescuers have already created an access road to the top of a hill.

However, rescue teams will need to dig 338ft down to reach the trapped workers – much longer than the distance of the horizontal shaft.

Digging work has also commenced on the far side of the road tunnel, an even longer third route estimated to be some 1,574ft.

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