Drilling Machine Breaks, Stopping Tunnel Rescue

The 40 workers have been trapped inside a tunnel since Nov. 12
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 16, 2023 9:03 AM CST
Updated Nov 25, 2023 4:05 PM CST
3 Planes Fly Bigger Drill to Workers Trapped in Tunnel
Rescuers rest at the site of an under-construction road tunnel that collapsed in Silkyara in the northern Indian state of Uttarakhand, on Friday.   (AP Photo)
UPDATE Nov 25, 2023 4:05 PM CST

A drilling machine being used to try to break through rubble, stones, and metal to reach construction workers trapped in a collapsed tunnel in northern India has broken down, halting the operation. Crews began trying to remove the debris by hand, the AP reports. "The machine is busted," Arnold Dix, an international expert helping the effort, told reporters. "It is irreparable." He said it's not clear when the rescue operation can resume. A new drilling machine that digs vertically was brought to the site Saturday, but that would require rescuers to dig down twice as far—338 feet—as they would with a horizontal shaft.

Nov 16, 2023 9:03 AM CST

The 40 workers who were trapped by a landslide on Sunday as they were digging a tunnel through a mountain in India remain trapped, and as concerns mount about their health, more extreme measures are being taken. CNN reports Indian authorities have reached out to the Thai team that managed to rescue a boys' soccer team that spend three weeks trapped in a flooded cave in 2018, as well as the Norwegian Geotechnical Institute. A high-powered drill was brought to the location in northern Uttarakhand state late Wednesday in parts via three Indian air force transport aircraft.

It was then assembled on site, where it will be used to insert a 2.5-foot-wide steel pipe into the debris after the drill that was being used was found to be too weak for the job; the hope is that men could then escape through the pipe. The AP reports the plan is to use the American Auger machine to drill through a distance of roughly 150 feet; the BBC reports it can progress at a rate of about 16 feet per hour. Rescuers hope to reach the trapped workers by Friday night or Saturday. "If this fails, we have a third and fourth backup plan. We are exploring all options to bring our brothers out," says a rep for the National Highways and Infrastructure Development Corporation.

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The men are stuck roughly 200 feet inside the mountain and have complained of fever, aches, and vomiting. A disaster management relief official says they are being sent cashew nuts, peanuts, soaked and roasted chickpeas, popcorn, and medicines every two hours through a smaller pipe. CNN digs into the controversy surrounding Narendra Modi's Char Dham Highway project, which the tunnel is a part of. The planned 620-mile development is intended to streamline access to key pilgrimage locations in the mountainous Uttarakhand near the Chinese border. But critics caution the work could wreak havoc on the fragile Himalayan region and contribute to more landslides and flash flooding. (More India stories.)

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