Drill bores into tunnel rubble in India to create escape for 40 trapped workers

Rescuers have drilled into the rubble of a collapsed road tunnel in northern India to fix wide pipes for 40 workers trapped underground for a sixth day to crawl to freedom.

Drilling with a new machine started on Thursday and had covered a stretch of 78 feet by Friday morning, Devendra Patwal, a disaster management official, said.

It may require up to 195 feet to enable the trapped workers’ escape, Mr Patwal told The Associated Press.

He said the rescuers hoped to complete the drilling by Friday night and create an escape tunnel of pipes welded together.

India Tunnel Collapse
A landslide on Sunday caused a portion of the 2.7-mile tunnel to collapse about 500 feet from the entrance (AP Photo)

The construction workers have been trapped since Sunday, when a landslide caused a portion of the 2.7-mile tunnel they were building to collapse about 500 feet from the entrance. The hilly area is prone to landslide and subsidence.

The site is in Uttarakhand, a mountainous state dotted with Hindu temples that attract many pilgrims and tourists. Highway and building construction has been constant to accommodate the influx.

India Tunnel Collapse
Rescuers supplied food and medicine to 40 construction workers on Thursday as officials started drilling through the rubble to reach the men (AP Photo)

About 200 disaster relief personnel have been at the site using drilling equipment and excavators in the rescue operation with the plan to push 2.6-foot-wide steel pipes through an opening of excavated debris.

A machine used earlier in the week was slow in pushing the pipes through the debris, a state government statement said.

The new American Auger machine has a drilling capacity of up to 16 feet per hour and is equipped with a 2.9 feet diameter pipe to clear debris. At times, it is slowed down by the pile of rubble.

State officials have contacted Thai experts who helped rescue a youth soccer team trapped in a cave in Thailand in 2018, state government administrator Gaurav Singh said. They also have approached the Norwegian Geotechnical Institute for possible help.

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