They are blurry, shaky images, but they offer a glimmer of hope for the desperate families: For the first time, a camera films the 41 workers who have been stuck in a partially collapsed highway tunnel in India for ten long days. You can see trapped people wearing protective helmets standing in a high part of the tunnel and communicating with the helpers outside via walkie-talkie.
“If you’re okay, come in front of the camera,” asks a rescuer. "All of you, come on camera." For the desperate families of the men who were at the scene of the accident, it was a relief to see the videos, wrote the Indian Express. "If necessary, take our house and land, but please bring our son back to us safely," the family of 22-year-old worker Pushkar Singh Airi previously told the media group "India Today".
Rescuers have been trying to free the 41 workers for days. After all: you are in contact with the men. And there's good news: Rescuers were reportedly able to build a second tube through which those trapped received their first hot meal in ten days. A rice and lentil dish was sent to the men in bottles.
Until then there was only a very narrow tube to the outside world through which the men received oxygen, dried fruit, popcorn and water. In the coming days, cell phones and chargers should also be able to reach them, reported the local television station NDTV. The trapped workers are already being provided with medication. Among other things, they were reportedly now suffering from headaches, constipation and claustrophobia.
Construction work on a 4.5-kilometer-long highway tunnel was well underway when it partially collapsed following a landslide on November 12. The scene of the accident is near the small town of Uttarkashi in the Himalayan state of Uttarakhand - a region with many Hindu temples that attracts pilgrims. The tunnel was intended to improve connections there.
The workers are stuck behind dozens of meters of rubble. Initially, the authorities promised a quick rescue. But attempts with different machines repeatedly failed. The scree is hard and the terrain is unsafe. On Friday, work with a drilling rig was stopped after a crack could clearly be heard opening up inside the mountain.
The helpers are now trying to drill holes from three sides. Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced that it was essential to maintain the morale of men. But how long they will have to endure in a small space is currently completely unclear.
At the weekend, the authorities announced that they would take care of accommodation, food and medical care for the waiting families, as the local news agency ANI reported. Several politicians and officials have already visited the scene of the accident.
The Indian tunnel drama brings back memories of the daring rescue of a youth soccer team from a suddenly flooded cave in Thailand five years ago. Media from all over the world reported for days on the spectacular and highly risky rescue operation in the Tham Luang Cave. Finally, the trapped people were brought out into the open by special divers from, among other places, Great Britain and Australia.
The Indian government has now contacted experts who were involved in this successful rescue mission in Thailand in the hope that there will also be a happy ending for the prisoners in the tunnel. Experts from Norway were also contacted. The good news is: there is still hope. Anurag Jain from the Transport Ministry was convinced: "It will take some time, but we will get them out eventually."