The 41 workers inside a collapsed road tunnel were seen alive for the first time as attempts were made to create new passages to free them.
The first images of 41 men stuck for 10 days in a road tunnel in the Indian Himalayas have been published, showing them standing in a confined space and communicating with emergency services.
A 30-second video provided by authorities Tuesday showed a dozen trapped men standing in a semicircle in front of the endoscopic camera, wearing construction workers’ helmets and jackets over their clothes, against a backdrop of lights in the tunnel.
The men appeared exhausted and anxious, some with thick beards, while an emergency worker outside could be heard telling them to come forward one by one to confirm their identities on the walkie-talkie that had been dispatched.
“We’ll get you out safely, don’t worry,” rescuers can be heard telling the men as they gather near the camera.
The video was shot using a medical endoscopy camera that was pushed through a second, wider pipeline, 15 cm (6 inches) in diameter, drilled through the debris on Monday, authorities said.
Before the camera was introduced, rescuers communicated with the men inside using radios.
‘Take care of yourself’
The 41 men have been trapped in the 4.5 km tunnel in Uttarakhand state since it collapsed early on November 12 and are safe, authorities said, with access to light, oxygen, food, water and medicines.
They did not specify the cause of the collapse, but the region is prone to landslides, earthquakes and floods. Efforts to get workers out have been slowed by problems with drilling debris into the mountainous terrain.
Rescuers are expected to resume drilling horizontally through a 60-meter (195-foot) pile of debris on Tuesday to push it through a pipe large enough for the trapped men to crawl out.
Drilling was suspended on Friday after a machine problem and fears of a new collapse.
Authorities are simultaneously working on five other plans to remove workers, including vertical drilling from the mountaintop.
Abhishek Sharma, a psychiatrist sent to the site by the state government, said he had asked the 41 men to walk around the 2 km (1.2 mile) area where they are confined, do light exercises yoga and talking to each other regularly to stay busy.
“Sleep is very important to them… and so far they are sleeping well and have not reported any difficulty sleeping,” Sharma told Reuters, adding that the men were in good spirits and eager to go out soon .
Another doctor there, Prem Pokhriyal, said the men had been asked to avoid intense workouts that could increase the buildup of carbon dioxide in the confined space when they exhale.
The trapped men are low-wage workers, mostly from India’s poor northern and eastern states.
“He said he was fine,” Sunita Hembrom, the sister-in-law of one of the workers trapped in the tunnel, Surendra Kisko, told reporters after speaking to him.
“He told me: “Take care of yourself, your children and your parents. Just tell us what they’re doing to get us out of here.
Experts have warned of the effects of large-scale construction in Uttarakhand, where large parts of the state are prone to landslides.
The planned tunnel is part of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s infrastructure plans to reduce travel times between some of the country’s most popular Hindu sites, as well as improve access to strategic border areas with rival China.
Foreign experts were recruited, including independent Australian investigator Arnold Dix, president of the International Tunneling and Underground Space Association.
“These 41 men are going home,” Dix told the Press Trust of India news agency. ” When exactly ? Not sure.”
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