India seeks help from Thai cave rescuers as it begins drilling for tunnel collapse workers

A team of rescuers had banded together to get out a youth soccer team trapped inside a Thailand cave in 2018

Maroosha Muzaffar
Thursday 16 November 2023 08:46 GMT
Related video: Rescuers work to save 40 workers trapped under collapsed tunnel in India

India has approached experts in Thailand who helped get school children out of a flooded cave in 2018 for the rescue of 40 workers trapped inside a collapsed tunnel for over 80 hours.

Indian authorities “contacted the Thai company which rescued the children trapped in the cave” to help with the rescue, said the state government’s department of public relations in a statement on Wednesday.

The statement refers to the rescue operation of school children in Thailand that had garnered international attention. A Thai youth soccer team consisting of 12 boys aged 11-16 and their coach were trapped in the Tham Luang Nang Non cave in Chiang Rai province in northern Thailand after heavy rain flooded the cave passages.

A team of rescuers including Thai Navy SEALs, divers and experts from various countries had banded together to bring the boys and their coach to safety.

Indian authorities have now approached the same experts to help bring the trapped tunnel workers in Uttarakhand’s Uttarkashi district back to safety.

The workers have remained trapped inside the tunnel in the northern Indian state since Sunday morning.

The 40 workers are said to be safe at the moment. Officials said they are being given oxygen, water, food packets and medicines through tubes. Communication with them was re-established via walkie-talkies, media reports said.

After spending over 80 hours inside the collapsed tunnel, the trapped men are raising health concerns, according to RCS Panwar, the Uttarkashi district’s top government medical officer.

He told The Indian Express that some individuals had complained of minor headaches and nausea. Authorities have sent essential medicines, multivitamins, glucose and dry fruits through a six-inch pipe, he said.

The tunnel collapsed after a landslide struck the region at around 5.30am on Sunday.

The men were working on the Char Dham highway, one of the most ambitious projects of prime minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist government.

The project aims to connect four Hindu pilgrimage sites in the mountains through an 890km stretch of roads at a total cost of approximately Rs 125bn ($1.5bn or £1.2bn).

There were up to 60 men on the night shift in the 4.5km tunnel when it collapsed before dawn. Men near the end of the tunnel managed to get out in time, but the 40 trapped men were working deeper inside.

The rescue operation was hindered on Tuesday after parts of an auger – a machine used to drill steel pipes through rubble – broke upon contact with a boulder.

On Wednesday, heavy machinery was unable to clear the rubble blocking the collapsed under-construction tunnel for the fourth day. Rescuers asked for another heavy drilling machine to be airlifted to the site, said reports.

A day later, on the fifth day of rescue operations, new drilling equipment transported in three shipments from national capital Delhi by an Indian Air Force Hercules aircraft had been transported to the tunnel.

“Rescue operation is underway. We have full hope. We are trying our best,” federal minister VK Singh, who was at the site of the tunnel collapse on Thursday, told news agency ANI.

The trapped workers are from different states across India.

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