Published: 2023-11-18 16:25
Last Updated: 2023-12-02 22:41
Indian rescuers said Saturday they had paused efforts to reach 41 men trapped in a collapsed road tunnel after a cracking sound created a "panic situation" over the possibility of a further cave-in.
Excavators have been removing debris from the under-construction road tunnel in the northern Himalayan state of Uttarakhand since Sunday after a portion of the tunnel the workers were building collapsed.
The week-long rescue efforts have been slowed by the continued falling of debris as well as repeated breakdowns of the crucial heavy drilling machines.
Saturday, senior local civil servant Abhishek Ruhela said the number of trapped men was 41 -- one more than the construction company had reported -- which prompted criticism of negligence.
The government's highways and infrastructure company, NHIDCL, said a sudden cracking sound late Friday had "created a panic situation in the tunnel", sparking fears the roof could cave in.
Operations were then halted amid the possibility of "further collapse", NHIDCL said in a statement.
Rescuers have been communicating with the trapped men using radios.
Food, water, oxygen and medicine have also been sent via a six-inch-wide pipe, but those trapped inside are desperate, Indian media reported.
"We keep sending word in, inquiring about their health," Mohammed Rizwan, part of the rescue team, told the Times of India.
"But all of them have just one question: 'When will you bring us out?'"