The 41 workers inside a collapsed road tunnel have been seen alive for the first time amid attempts to create new passageways to free them.
The first images of 41 men trapped for 10 days in a road tunnel in the Indian Himalayas have emerged, showing them standing in a confined space and communicating with rescuers.
A 30-second video provided by authorities on Tuesday showed a dozen trapped men standing in a semicircle in front of the endoscopic camera, wearing construction workers’ helmets and jackets over their clothing, against the backdrop of tunnel lights. .
The men appeared exhausted and anxious, some with thick beards, while a rescuer outside could be heard telling them to introduce themselves one by one to confirm their identities on the walkie-talkie they had been sent.
“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 recorded through a medical endoscopy camera that was inserted through a second, wider, 6-inch (15 cm) diameter pipe drilled through the debris on Monday, authorities said.
Before the camera was introduced, rescuers had communicated with the men inside using radios.
‘Take care of yourself’
The 41 men have been trapped in the 4.5-kilometer (3-mile) tunnel in Uttarakhand state since it collapsed early Nov. 12 and are safe, officials said, with access to light, oxygen, food , water and medicines.
They have not said what caused the collapse, but the region is prone to landslides, earthquakes and flooding. Efforts to remove workers have been slowed by problems drilling through debris in the mountainous terrain.
Rescuers on Tuesday plan to resume horizontal drilling through a 60-meter (195-foot) pile of rubble to push through a pipe large enough for the trapped men to crawl out.
Drilling was suspended on Friday due to a problem with a machine and fears of a new collapse.
Authorities are simultaneously working on five other plans to remove workers, including vertical drilling from the top of the mountain.
Abhishek Sharma, a psychiatrist sent to the scene by the state government, said he had asked the 41 men to walk within the 2 kilometer (1.2 mile) area where they are confined, do light yoga exercises and talk regularly with each other to keep busy.
“Sleep is very important for them… and so far they have been sleeping well and have not reported any difficulty sleeping,” Sharma told Reuters, adding that the men were in good spirits and eager to get out soon.
Another doctor at the scene, Prem Pokhriyal, said the men had been asked to avoid intense exercises that could increase the buildup of carbon dioxide in the confined space when exhaling.
The trapped men are low-wage workers, most of them from poor states in northern and eastern India.
“He said it’s fine,” Sunita Hembrom, sister-in-law of one of the workers trapped in the tunnel, Surendra Kisko, told reporters after speaking with him.
“He said, ‘Take care of yourselves, the children and the parents. Just tell us what you’re doing to get us out of here.’”
Experts have warned of the effects of large construction in Uttarakhand, where much of the state is prone to landslides.
The planned tunnel is part of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s infrastructure plans aimed at reducing travel times between some of the country’s most popular Hindu sites, as well as improving access to strategic areas bordering rival China.
Foreign experts have been recruited, including independent Australian disaster researcher Arnold Dix, president of the International Tunneling and Underground Space Association.
“Those 41 men are coming home,” Dix told the Press Trust of India news agency. “Exactly when? I’m not sure.”