Ten days into a daunting rescue effort, workers trapped in a tunnel in Uttarakhand were seen for the first time early this morning as a camera inserted through a pipe captured their visuals.
An endoscopic camera was pushed inside the tunnel through a six-inch pipe inserted through the rubble last night to send food for the 41 workers trapped since a portion of the tunnel caved in on November 12.
In the visuals, the labourers were seen in their hard hats and work gear, waving to the camera, communicating that they are coping well, given their trying circumstances. Rescue officials, speaking to the workers through Walkie Talkies or radio handsets, were seen asking the workers to come in front of the camera.
“Aap camera ke paas walkie talkie pe aake baat karein (come in front of the camera and talk to us through Walkie Talkie),” an official was heard asking them.
The rescuers trapped workers also had their first hot meal in 10 days as khichdi in glass bottles were sent through the pipe last night. Till now, they had survived on dry fruits and water.
The official in charge of rescue operations, Colonel Deepak Patil, said the workers would soon be sent mobiles and chargers through the pipe.
Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami shared the video of the workers, saying that they all are safe and will be rescued soon.
Over the past week, repeated attempts to rescue the workers have failed because of challenges including the topography and the nature of rocks in the area. Landslides also blocked efforts last week.
The Centre has devised a five-option action plan that involves drilling from three sides to access the trapped workers. Five different agencies have been tasked with carrying out each operation.
Two tunnels are being drilled horizontally from the right and left sides of the main tunnel, while a vertical shaft will be drilled from the top of the tunnel.
The round-the-clock rescue work is being carried out by multiple agencies, including NDRF, SDRF, BRO, and the ITBP. An international tunnelling expert team arrived yesterday and joined the efforts. A robotics team from defence research organization DRDO has also reached.
Officials said that all workers are safe and are being supplied food and water through steel pipes that have been drilled into the opening.
The under-construction tunnel is part of the ambitious Char Dham project, a national infrastructure initiative to enhance connectivity to the Hindu pilgrimage sites of Badrinath, Kedarnath, Gangotri, and Yamunotri.