Rescuers race to save workers trapped in India tunnel

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GETTY IMAGES. Officials established contact with the trapped men using walkie-talkies on Sunday night

Nov 14: Rescuers are racing to save 40 workers trapped inside a collapsed tunnel in the northern Indian state of Uttarakhand since Sunday morning.

The workers, who were building the tunnel, were trapped when a part of the tunnel caved in due to a landslide.

Officials have been able to establish contact with the trapped men and have been providing them food, water and oxygen.

They say they expect to rescue the workers by Tuesday night or Wednesday.

The tunnel in Uttarkashi district is part of the federal government's ambitious highway project to improve connectivity to famous pilgrimage spots in Uttarakhand. The mountainous state, where several Himalayan peaks and glaciers are located, is home to some of the holiest sites for Hindus.

The accident occurred at 05:00 local time (23:30 GMT) on Sunday when a portion of the Silkyara tunnel, around 200m away from its opening, collapsed while the workers were inside, senior police official Arpan Yaduvanshi told BBC Hindi.

A landslide nearby caused heavy debris to fall on the tunnel, leading to its collapse. The mounds of debris cut off oxygen supply to the workers.

Authorities said they established contact with the trapped men on Sunday night using walkie-talkies.

A pipeline, which was laid for supplying water to the tunnel for construction work, is now being used to supply the trapped men with oxygen, food and water, they added.

Rescuers will have to dig through several metres of debris before they can start the evacuations. Excavators and other heavy machines are bring used to dig through the debris.

On Tuesday morning, the state government said rescue teams were "preparing to drill and insert a metal pipe of 900mm diameter in the part of the tunnel blocked by debris" to reached the workers.

State Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami said national and state disaster relief teams were working together on rescue efforts.

"All the workers trapped inside the tunnel are safe and every effort is being made to get them out soon," a statement from his office said.

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