For the first time since a road tunnel collapsed in India, rescue teams have managed to use an endoscope camera to make contact with construction workers who have been trapped for ten days. The 41 men appeared exhausted and frightened but healthy in the video released by authorities on Tuesday. All rescue attempts have so far failed, and new ways are now being urgently sought.

“We will get you out safely, don’t worry,” the voice of a representative of the rescue teams can be heard as the trapped construction workers gather in front of the camera. Since the tunnel partially collapsed during construction work on the morning of November 12th, excavators have already removed tons of earth, concrete and rubble. However, falling debris and repeated failures of heavy drilling machines are making rescue efforts much more difficult.

The attempt to drive a steel pipe with a diameter of 90 centimeters horizontally through at least 57 meters of earth and rock to the trapped men had to be interrupted last week after the huge drilling machine became stuck in boulders and there was also a sudden cracking sound in the tunnel had caused panic. The rescue teams are now considering drilling a vertical shaft from the wooded hill almost 90 meters deep to the trapped people. But the drilling work above the heads of the 41 construction workers is also complex and dangerous. According to Indian media reports, another alternative is to dig a new shaft from the other end of the tunnel. However, this would then have to be 450 meters long.

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At least the rescue teams managed to replace the small steel tube, through which the men had previously been supplied with oxygen, water, food and walkie-talkies, with a slightly wider tube. With a diameter of 15 centimeters, it is large enough for the camera and, for the first time, bottles of warm food. The rescuers also hope that they can send a drone through the tube to examine how stable the environment is for those trapped.

The planned 4.5 kilometer long road tunnel in the Himalayan state of Uttarakhand was intended to connect two ancient Hindu temples. It is part of a road construction project massively supported by India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi, which is primarily intended to provide better connections to some of the country’s most popular Hindu shrines. Experts had already warned in advance of such extensive construction work in the landslide-prone state. The Indian authorities also sought advice from foreign experts for the rescue work. They include a Thai company that helped in the spectacular rescue of a boys’ soccer team from a flooded cave in 2018, as well as engineers from Norway’s Geotechnical Institute.