Lucknow : Rescuers in northern India supplied food and medicine to 40 construction workers on Thursday as officials prepared to start drilling through the rubble to reach the men who have been trapped since a portion of the tunnel they were working on collapsed over the weekend.
Rescuers planned to insert wide steel pipes to create a passage to free the workers trapped since early Sunday in the mountainous Uttarakhand state. A drilling machine was assembled after three Indian Air Force transport aircraft flew their parts in from New Delhi on Wednesday.
The workers are being provided with cashew nuts, peanuts, soaked and roasted chickpeas, popcorn, and medicines every two hours, said Devendra Patwal, a disaster management relief official.
Anshu Manish Khalko, a National Highways and Infrastructure Development Corporation official, said he expected the drilling operation to start sometime Thursday.
State officials have contacted Thai experts who helped rescue a junior association football team that was trapped in a cave system in northern Thailand in 2018, state government administrator Gaurav Singh said. They have also approached the Norwegian Geotechnical Institute for possible help, Singh said.
About 200 disaster relief personnel have been at the site using drilling equipment and excavators in the rescue operation, with the plan to push 75-centimetre-wide (2.5-foot-wide) steel pipes through an opening of excavated debris.
Falling debris lightly injured two rescue workers and delayed operations on Tuesday and Wednesday. No fresh landslide has occurred since Tuesday.
A landslide during road construction caused a portion of the 4.5-kilometre (2.7-mile) tunnel to collapse about 200 metres (500 feet) from the entrance. It is a hilly tract of land, prone to landslides and subsidence.
Uttarakhand is a mountainous state dotted with Hindu temples that attract many pilgrims and tourists, and the construction of highways and buildings has been constant to accommodate the influx.