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India: 40 workers trapped in tunnel collapse are “alive”

The forty Indian workers trapped since Sunday in the collapse of a road tunnel under construction in northern India are alive, a rescue team official said.

“All 40 workers trapped inside the tunnel are alive,” Karamveer Singh Bhandari, a senior commander of the National Disaster Response Force, said in a statement.

“We sent them water and food,” he added.

The collapse occurred early Sunday morning in the Indian Himalayas as a group of workers left the construction site and a replacement crew arrived.

The first contact with the survivors was made through a message transmitted on a piece of paper, but the rescuers then managed to establish communication using radio devices.

Rescuers said they injected oxygen into the collapsed area of ​​the tunnel and also managed to get food in through the same conduit.

“A few small packets of food were sent through a pipeline which also carries oxygen inside,” Durgesh Rathodi, head of relief for the state of Uttarakhand, in the Indian Himalayas, told AFP , from the scene of the disaster.

According to Mr. Rathodi, the excavators have cleared around 20 meters of rubble but the workers are 40 meters further away.

“Due to the abundance of rubble in the tunnel, we are facing certain difficulties in the rescue operation,” Bhandari said.

Uttarakhand Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami, who visited the accident site on Monday, said on safely”.

“The positive side is that the workers are not on top of each other and have a buffer space of around 400 meters to walk and breathe,” assured Devendra Patwal, a rescue response manager at the Indian Express newspaper.

This tunnel is part of the Char Dham highway project, dear to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, designed to improve connections with four Hindu sites, among the most important in the country, and also with the border regions of China.

Accidents on major infrastructure construction sites are common in India.

In January, at least 200 people were killed in flash floods in Uttarakhand, a disaster that experts have partly blamed on overdevelopment.

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