According to CNN, ten days into a difficult and tedious mission to release the men trapped within a collapsed Himalayan tunnel, the first pictures of the group have surfaced.
Standing in a vast cavern around 60 meters (198 feet) inside the mountain, the men in helmets are recorded on camera by rescuers on the surface using video sent through a conduit. Through a megaphone, a rescuer adds, “Don’t worry, we’ll reach quickly.” “Tell us you’re alright. Remove the camera (from the pipe) gradually. Present each person’s face to us. Since the entrance to the tunnel they were working to dig collapsed on November 12, the 41 stranded laborers have been receiving food, drink, and oxygen through the pipe.
Indian officials have been considering several methods to rescue the guys, including putting a larger conduit through the debris that would allow them to escape on foot. But because of the unstable terrain, every attempt to open a tunnel through the debris has proven difficult, and drilling has been stopped regularly. In what has been termed the operation’s “first success,” rescuers managed to install a 53-meter (174-foot) conduit through the rubble late Monday, allowing them to bring their first hot meal of lentils, water, medications and oxygen to the trapped laborers. “There has been a significant increase in confidence regarding the safety of the trapped workers’ lives,” a statement issued by state officials on Monday stated. “After receiving this positive news, the workers and their families, as well as the rescue teams, are happy and enthusiastic, and there is a lot of hope for additional rescue options.”
Although a temporary hospital has been erected at the tunnel’s entrance, efforts to free the trapped men are still ongoing, so a rescue does not appear to be near. Authorities made contact with the guys shortly after the collapse and have since gone on a frenzied operation to pull them out safely, with the assistance of local police, India’s Disaster Management Authority, and the State Disaster Response Fund. Initially, rescuers attempted to dig through the debris to reach the men, but work was slowed when additional material fell into the hole. They then brought in a drill to see if they could make a hole large enough to install a conduit through which the guys could crawl to safety. However, construction was halted after a landslide hindered the attempts and officials determined that the machine was insufficiently strong. As resentment rose among families at the tunnel’s entrance, authorities flew in a high-powered drill from the capital, New Delhi, to begin construction on an escape conduit. A “large-scale cracking sound” was detected when that equipment began to work last Friday, according to Reuters, citing a statement from the National Highways and Infrastructure Development Corporation, leading authorities to halt the drilling once more.
Rescuers are currently exploring digging from three directions, including vertically, and rescue pipes have been successfully put into around 25 meters (82 feet) of rubble. Authorities said they are considering all possibilities to reach the guys, including enlisting international assistance from teams involved in prior challenging rescues.