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Trapped Indian workers receive hot meals and rescue efforts intensify

NEW DELHI — The 41 construction workers trapped in a collapsed tunnel in northern India for more than a week are finally getting hot meals Tuesday, provided by a newly installed steel pipe, as rescuers work on another plan to dig vertically towards them.

The meals, consisting of rice and lentils, were delivered through a 6-inch pipe embedded in the rubble Monday evening, said Deepa Gaur, a government spokeswoman.

For the past nine days, workers have survived on dry food sent through a narrower pipe. Oxygen is supplied to them through a separate pipe.

Officials released video Tuesday, after a camera was pushed through the pipe, showing workers wearing their construction hats moving around the blocked tunnel while communicating with rescuers on the ground via walkie-talkies. Their families are growing increasingly worried and frustrated as the rescue operation drags 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 high-intensity vibrations also caused more debris to fall, prompting authorities to briefly suspend rescue operations.

A worker trapped inside a collapsed tunnel in the Indian state of Uttarakhand in an image captured by an endoscope camera on Tuesday.Department of Information and Public Relations via AFP – Getty Images

Currently, rescuers are creating an access road to the top of the hill from where they will dig vertically. In the vertical direction, drilling the tunnel will take a few days and debris could fall during digging, officials said Monday. Rescue teams will have to dig 338 feet deep to reach the trapped workers, nearly double the distance.

Authorities said they would also continue digging horizontally from the mouth of the tunnel toward the workers.

Workers have been stuck since Nov. 12, when a landslide caused part of the 2.8-mile tunnel they were building to collapse about 200 yards from the entrance.

Uttarakhand is dotted with Hindu temples and construction of highways and buildings has been constant to accommodate the influx of pilgrims and tourists. The tunnel is part of the Chardham All-Weather Road, a federal flagship project connecting various Hindu pilgrimage sites.

Around 200 rescue workers responded to the scene, using drilling equipment and excavators for the rescue operation.

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