First Footage Emerges of Trapped Indian Workers in Himalayan Tunnel, Rescue Efforts Intensify

Authorities have not yet said what caused the tunnel to cave in.(Reuters: Saurabh Sharma)

The first footage of the 41 men trapped for over a week in a collapsed highway tunnel in the Indian Himalayas has surfaced, revealing them standing in the confined space and communicating with rescue workers. The men, stuck in a 4.5-kilometer tunnel in Uttarakhand state since November 12, are reported to be safe with access to light, oxygen, food, water, and medicine. Authorities have not disclosed the cause of the tunnel collapse, but the region is prone to natural disasters. Efforts to rescue the men have faced challenges in drilling through debris in the mountainous terrain.

Authorities expressed optimism, stating that a breakthrough in the rescue effort might be achieved within the next 30-40 hours. Mahmood Ahmed, managing director of the National Highways and Infrastructure Development Corporation (NHIDCL), said they are prepared for potential difficulties. A 30-second video provided by authorities showed the trapped men in good spirits, wearing helmets and construction worker jackets, standing in front of the camera in the well-lit tunnel.

Rescue workers, using a medical endoscopy camera pushed through a second pipeline drilled through the debris, instructed the men to confirm their identities. The trapped workers seemed fine, responding positively to inquiries about their well-being. Rescue operations, including horizontal drilling through a debris pile and five other plans, have resumed. Drilling had been briefly suspended due to machine issues and concerns about additional collapses. The trapped men, mostly low-wage workers from poor states in India, are being supported mentally by a psychiatrist on-site, and efforts to keep them occupied and in good spirits are ongoing. Relatives of the trapped workers anxiously await updates on the rescue progress.