Bilaspur: Trapped for more than 160 hours after a tunnel under construction collapsed in Himachal Pradesh, hope has dawned for two workers after an official assured them on Saturday of an early rescue.
But the concern of one of the workers, Satish Tomar, was more for his family than for himself.
Fending for life after a tunnel under construction for the Kiratpur-Manali four-lane road project collapsed on September 12, Tomar requested Bilaspur Deputy Commissioner Manasi Sahay Thakur to inform his family and his companion's family about their well-being.
Thakur spoke with Tomar through a microphone linked with a webcam.
Rescuers had on Wednesday night managed to establish contact with two trapped workers - Mani Ram and Tomar. However, the whereabouts of the third worker, Hirdya Ram, are not yet known.
Both are being given eatables through a pipe since then, officials told IANS.
The deputy commissioner said the operation to rescue them was in progress and that they would soon be rescued.
"We are all with you. Don't worry. Your family is also awaiting your early rescue. I will personally convey your message to them," she said in her conversation with the trapped workers.
She said vertical digging of the tunnel was on to rescue the survivors.
"I am told that the digging will take a day or two to reach out to the survivors. But we are hopeful of rescuing them in another 24 hours," she said.
"So far we have managed to drill a vertical hole of more than 32 metres into the tunnel. The pipe inserted earlier to supply food and to establish contact with them was 50 metres. Now we need to make another vertical hole of 50 metres or may be more to evacuate them," she added.
Officials involved in the rescue operation said 1.2 metre diameter pipe would be inserted in the hole to evacuate the stuck workers.
"Hard strata surfaced after drilling 28 metres, which are hampering the further drilling," she added.
Of the 1.2-km proposed tunnel, 275 meters was excavated till the day of the disaster, an official source said.
"The tunnel caved in at around 80 metres from its opening. This means there is cavity of around 200 metres between the caved in portion and the dead-end of the tunnel. It seems that a major portion of the excavated tunnel is either filled with muck or with water," an official involved in the rescue operation said.
The contract for tunnel excavation has been assigned to the Himalayan Construction Company, whose workers, belonging to the hill state, are trapped.
Teams of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) and the Border Roads Organisation (BRO) have been deployed for the rescue operation.
BRO's director (tunnels) R.S. Rao, who is looking after the Rohtang tunnel project, has been camping at the site to oversee the rescue operation.