Rescuers close to evacuating trapped workers in Himachal

Bilaspur (Himachal Pradesh): Rescuers on Monday managed to penetrate the roof of a tunnel and came close to evacuating two workers stuck in it for over 200 hours in Himachal Pradesh, officials said.

"We have managed to drill a hole of about one foot at the roof of the tunnel. Now, we are trying to enlarge it so that our men can easily enter the tunnel to safely evacuate the workers," Jaideep Singh, commanding officer of the National Disaster Response Force, told IANS.

He said the two trapped workers -- Mani Ram and Satish Tomar -- are in regular touch with the rescuers through a microphone linked with a webcam. They have been provided dry fruits and glucose.

However, the whereabouts of the third worker, Hirdya Ram, are not known yet.

"As per our assessment, there is an accumulation of around three feet groundwater inside the tunnel. The water at this level is not a problem for the safety of the trapped workers. Once our men manage to enter inside the tunnel, they would safely bring out the trapped workers," he added.

A snag in the drilling machine hampered the evacuation throughout the day on Sunday.

A vertical shaft of 42 metres beneath the ground was dug to rescue the workers.

Of the 1.2-km proposed tunnel of the Kiratpur-Manali expressway road project, 275 metres was excavated when disaster struck on September 12.

The contract for tunnel laying, involving an outlay of Rs.82 crore, has been assigned to the Chandigarh-based Himalayan Construction Co, three of whose workers, belonging to the hill state, were trapped.

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