A general view of the tunnel as rescue workers continue to operate at the site of an under-construction tunnel following a collapse, on the Brahmakhal Yamunotri National Highway in Uttarkashi, India, 17 November 2023. EFE/EPA/ABHYUDAYA KOTNALA

India’s rescue operations at tunnel with 40 trapped halted due to snag

New Delhi, Nov 18 (EFE).- Indian authorities have halted efforts to rescue 40 workers trapped in a tunnel in northern India as operations entered the sixth day on Saturday.

The authorities are now exploring other options and looking to replace damaged machinery at the site, located in Uttarkashi district in the northern state of Uttarakhand.

The plan to dig a tunnel through the rubble and insert a tube just under a meter in diameter to facilitate rescue is currently paralyzed, the district’s disaster management officer Devendra Patwal told EFE.

Rescue teams halted work due to a breakdown in the tunnel boring machine, which the authorities have been trying to replace.

“Today the different agencies involved in the rescue met to explore new options,” Patwal said.

The collapse occurred early Sunday at the under construction Silkyara tunnel, leaving forty workers trapped behind dozens of meters of rubble.

The rescue teams, composed of about 250 members of the police and the National Disaster Response Force personnel, managed to establish contact with the trapped workers on Sunday.

They also verified that there were no injuries among them and provided them with oxygen and food.

Authorities initially tried to remove the debris with the help of excavators, but the work turned out to be harder than expected due to fears of further collapses inside the tunnel.

On Tuesday, they decided to use heavy machinery to make a hole and insert a pipe of almost a meter in diameter.

However, technical difficulties and breakdowns have forced rescue teams to replace the tunneling machine on several occasions.

The lack of progress and continued setbacks have sparked sporadic protests among the co-workers of the trapped workers.

Mishaps such as fires, landslides and other similar incidents are common in India, often due to poor infrastructure conditions and lack of maintenance, factors fueled by corruption and illegal practices.

At least 1,630 people died in 2021 due to the collapse of structures, according to the latest annual report on accidental deaths and suicides in India. EFE daa/sc