More than a hundred rescuers equipped with excavators are on hand. work Tuesday in northern India to try to free 40 workers trapped since Sunday in the collapse of a road tunnel under construction.
Although delicate, work to dig an evacuation passage is progressing and rescuers hope to be able to extract the workers on Wednesday, operations manager Ranjit Kumar Sinha told the press.
“Our biggest breakthrough is that we have established contact and can provide (them) with oxygen and food,” Abhishek Ruhela, head of the Uttarkashi district administration where the event took place, told AFP on Tuesday. collapse.
India © AFP – Sylvie HUSSON
The accident occurred early Sunday morning near Dehradun, in the Himalayan state of Uttarakhand, as a group of workers was leaving the construction site and a replacement team arrived.
Akash Singh Negi, the son of one of the workers trapped underground, was able to speak to him on Tuesday. “I was allowed to speak to my father for a few seconds thanks to the pipe that supplies oxygen to the workers,” he told the Press Trust of India agency. “He said they were safe and asked us not to worry,” he added.
Hemant Nayak was working in the tunnel when it started to collapse. collapsed but was lucky enough to be on the side of the exit and was able to escape.
Rescuers at the site of a tunnel collapse in Uttarkashi district, Uttarakhand state, on November 13, 2023 in India © AFP – –
At first, some debris began to fall inside the tunnel and “everyone took it lightly”, he told AFP. “Then suddenly a large amount of debris fell and the tunnel was blocked.”
Images published by rescuers demonstrate the violence of the landslide, including twisted metal bars among concrete blocks.
– Tube 90 cm in diameter –
Rescuers are using a machine capable of inserting a steel tube 90 centimeters in diameter through the rubble through which workers can squeeze to escape the tunnel. The distance to drill is measured in tens of meters.
< /p> Rescuers at the site of a tunnel collapse in Uttarkashi district, in the state of Uttarakhand, on November 13, 2023 in India © AFP – –
“Due Due to the abundance of rubble in the tunnel, we are facing certain difficulties in the rescue operation,” a senior commander of the National Task Force, Karamveer Singh Bhandari, had said on Monday.
As of Monday, the government highways and infrastructure company, in charge of the construction of the tunnel, indicated that it had succeeded in setting up a supply line for the workers and that they were all “safe”. p>
They have a space of around 400 meters to walk and breathe and “are not on top of each other”, Devendra Patwal, a rescue response manager, assured the Indian Express newspaper. .
4.5 km long, the tunnel is intended to connect two of the holiest Hindu shrines in Uttarkashi and Yamunotri.
Rescuers at the site of the collapse of a tunnel in Uttarkashi district, in the state of Uttarakhand, on November 13, 2023 in India © AFP – –
It is part of the Char Dham highway project, led by nationalist Prime Minister Narendra Modi, designed to improve connections between four important Hindu sites as well as with border regions of China.
Experts have warned of the impact of construction sites in Uttarakhand, which is prone to landslides.
“The government must reconsider all ongoing tunnel projects in the Himalayan states,” observes Suresh Bhai of the group Himalayan environmentalist Bachao Abhiyan (Campaign to Save the Himalayas), quoted by The Times of India newspaper. “Tunnel projects in the Himalayas should be completely banned. They make the mountains vulnerable.”
Accidents on major infrastructure sites are frequent in India.
In January, at least 200 people were killed in flash floods in Uttarakhand, a disaster that experts partly blamed on excessive development.
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