The 41 construction workers trapped in a collapsed tunnel in northern India for over a week will finally receive hot meals on Tuesday, provided by a newly installed steel pipe, as rescuers work on an alternative plan that involves walking vertically towards them dig.
The meals of rice and lentils were sent through the rubble late Monday through a 6-inch pipe, said Deepa Gaur, a government spokeswoman.
For the last nine days, workers survived on dry food sent through a narrower pipe. Oxygen is supplied to them via a separate line.
After pushing a camera through the pipe, officials released video Tuesday showing workers in their construction hats moving through the blocked tunnel and communicating via walkie-talkies with rescuers on the ground.
Their families became increasingly worried and frustrated as the rescue operation dragged on.
The tunnel collapsed in Uttarakhand state, a mountainous region that posed a challenge for the drilling machine, which broke down as rescuers tried to dig horizontally towards the trapped workers.
The machine’s strong vibrations also caused more debris to fall, prompting officials to briefly suspend rescue efforts.
Rescuers are currently building an access road to the top of the hill, from where they will dig vertically.
From a vertical direction, drilling to the tunnel will take several days and debris could fall as the digging occurs, officials said Monday.
Rescue teams have to dig 100 meters down to reach the trapped workers – almost twice the distance.
Authorities said they would continue to dig horizontally from the mouth of the tunnel toward the workers.
Workers have been trapped since Nov. 12, when a landslide caused part of the 2.8-mile-long tunnel they were building to collapse about 200 yards from the entrance.
Uttarakhand is dotted with Hindu temples and roads and buildings were constantly being constructed to accommodate the influx of pilgrims and tourists.
The tunnel is part of the Chardham All-Weather Road, a flagship federal project that connects various Hindu pilgrimage sites.
Around 200 disaster relief workers were on site and used drilling equipment and excavators in the rescue operation.