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Indian rescuers say very close to reaching 41 men trapped in tunnel

Indian rescuers say very close to reaching 41 men trapped in tunnel

World

The men have been stuck in the 4.5 km tunnel in Uttarakhand state since it collapsed on Nov. 12

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SILKYARA, India (Reuters) – Rescuers in India are just six or seven metres (20-23 feet) away from 41 men trapped in a collapsed highway tunnel in the Himalayas for more than two weeks, and are confident of drilling through to reach them on Tuesday, officials said.

The men, low-wage workers from India's poorest states, have been stuck in the 4.5 km (3 miles) tunnel in Uttarakhand state since it collapsed on Nov. 12.

So-called rat miners, brought in on Monday to drill through the rocks and gravel by hand after machinery failed, made good progress overnight, officials said.

"About 6 or 7 metres are left," said Deepak Patil, a senior officer leading the rescue, adding that more than 50 metres of an estimated 60 metres of debris had been bored through.

"Sure, 100%," he said when asked if the men could be reached on Tuesday.

The men have been getting food, water, light, oxygen and medicines through a pipe but efforts to dig a tunnel to reach and rescue them with drilling machines have been frustrated by a series of snags.

Rescuers on Monday brought in the "rat miners", experts at a primitive, hazardous and controversial method used mostly to get at coal deposits through narrow passages. Their name comes from their resemblance to burrowing rats.

The tunnel is part of the $1.5 billion Char Dham highway, one of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's most ambitious projects, aimed at connecting four Hindu pilgrimage sites through an 890- km network of roads.

Authorities have not said what caused the cave-in but the region is prone to landslides, earthquakes and floods.




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