DEHRADUN, India – The 41 workers who were trapped inside a collapsed road tunnel in the Indian Himalayas have been sighted alive for the first time as efforts to rescue them continue. After 10 days of being trapped, the men were seen in a 30-second video standing in a confined space, communicating with rescue workers. The video footage revealed about a dozen of the trapped workers standing in a semi-circle in front of an endoscopic camera, wearing helmets and construction worker jackets. According to officials, the workers looked exhausted and anxious, but were assured by rescuers that they would be brought out safely.
The workers have been stuck in the 4.5km tunnel since it caved in on November 12, but authorities have confirmed that they are safe, with access to essential supplies such as light, oxygen, food, water, and medicines. Efforts to free the workers have been hindered by challenges in drilling through the debris in the difficult, mountainous terrain. A priest was observed praying at a makeshift shrine outside the tunnel’s entrance as rescuers continued to work on plans to pull out the trapped men.
Rescue efforts were set to resume drilling horizontally through a 60-meter pile of debris to push through a pipe large enough for the trapped workers to crawl out. Authorities are also working on five other plans to free the workers, including vertical drilling from the top of the mountain. Two doctors at the site have been monitoring the workers’ physical and mental health, advising them to exercise caution as they await rescue. The workers are low-wage earners, most from impoverished states in India’s north and east.
Efforts to free the workers have garnered international support, with foreign experts, such as Australian independent disaster investigator Arnold Dix, lending their expertise to the rescue mission. “Those 41 men are coming home,” Dix said. “Exactly when? Not sure.” As the rescue operation continues, the workers and their families remain hopeful for a safe and successful outcome.