NEW DELHI (AP) — The 41 construction workers who have been trapped in a collapsed tunnel in northern India for more than a week will finally be able to receive hot meals Tuesday, delivered through a newly installed steel pipe, while Rescuers work on an alternative plan of excavating them vertically.
The meals, made of rice and lentils, were delivered through a 6-inch (15.24 cm) tube pushed through the rubble Monday night, said Deepa Gaur, a government spokeswoman.
For the past nine days, workers survived on dry food sent through a narrower tube. Oxygen is supplied to them through a separate pipe.
Authorities on Tuesday released video, after a camera was inserted through the pipeline, that showed workers in their construction helmets moving through the blocked tunnel while communicating with rescuers on the ground via walkie-talkies. . Their families have become increasingly worried and frustrated as the rescue operation has dragged on.
The tunnel collapsed in the state of Uttarakhand, a mountainous region that proved a challenge for the drilling machine that broke down as rescuers attempted to dig horizontally toward the trapped workers. The machine’s high-intensity vibrations also caused more debris to fall, prompting officials to briefly suspend rescue efforts.
Currently, rescuers are creating an access road to the top of the hill from where they will excavate vertically. From the vertical direction, drilling to the tunnel will take a few days and debris could fall during excavation, officials said Monday. Rescuers will have to dig 103 meters (338 feet) down to reach the trapped workers, almost double the distance.
Officials said they would also continue digging horizontally from the mouth of the tunnel toward the workers.
The workers have been trapped since Nov. 12, when a landslide caused part of the 4.5-kilometer (2.8-mile) tunnel they were building to collapse about 200 meters (650 feet) from the entrance.
Uttarakhand is dotted with Hindu temples, and construction of roads and buildings has been constant to accommodate the influx of pilgrims and tourists. The tunnel is part of the all-weather Chardham Highway, a landmark federal project connecting several Hindu pilgrimage sites.
Around 200 disaster relief personnel have been on site using drilling equipment and excavators in the rescue operation.