Rescuers in India are inching closer to reaching 41 men trapped in a collapsed highway tunnel in the Himalayas for over two weeks.
The 4.5 km tunnel in Uttarakhand state collapsed on Nov. 12, leaving low-wage workers from India’s poorest states stranded.
Rat miners, known for their ability to manually drill through rocks and gravel, were brought in to expedite the rescue effort.
Deepak Patil, leading the rescue effort, mentioned that just 6-7 meters are left to reach the trapped men and expressed absolute confidence in their rescue by Tuesday, saying, “Sure, 100%.”
“About 6 or 7 meters are left,” said Deepak Patil, a senior officer leading the rescue, adding that more than 50 meters of an estimated 60 meters of debris had been bored through, Reuters reported.
Despite being trapped, the men have been provided with essential supplies like food, water, light, oxygen, and medicines through a pipe.
Previous attempts to rescue them with drilling machines had faced numerous challenges and setbacks.
The “rat miners” are experts in a primitive and risky method, often used for coal mining in narrow passages, hence their name.
The collapsed tunnel is a part of the $1.5 billion Char Dham highway project, aiming to connect four Hindu pilgrimage sites through an extensive road network.
While the cause of the tunnel collapse remains unknown, the region is prone to natural disasters such as landslides, earthquakes, and floods.