Drilling work to rescue around 40 workers in a collapsed highway tunnel in northern India has been temporarily suspended.

A drilling rig specially flown in from the capital New Delhi stopped working on Friday afternoon after a loud crack was heard in the tunnel, the PTI news agency reported on Saturday, citing authorities. The noise caused panic among the rescue workers.

Workers are stuck behind 60 meters of rubble

By the time work stopped, the machine had already drilled around 24 meters through the rubble, it said. The workers have been stuck behind around 60 meters of rubble for a week. They were supplied with oxygen, medicine, food and water via existing pipes, it was said. We are also in contact with those trapped.

Experts looked for other ways to save the workers. A second high-performance drilling machine from the city of Indore is already on the way to the scene of the accident, but is not yet in use, Indian media reported on Saturday. The newspaper “India Today” reported that it is also being examined whether vertical drilling is possible from the top of the mountain.

Desperation among relatives is increasing

While relatives initially hoped for a quick rescue, their desperation is now increasing, wrote PTI. The voices of those trapped were growing weaker by the hour. Authorities announced on Saturday that they would take care of accommodation, food and medical care for waiting family members, news agency ANI reported.

The motorway tunnel under construction partially collapsed on Sunday morning after a landslide. The approximately 4.5 kilometer long highway tunnel is being built near the small town of Uttarkashi in the Himalayan state of Uttarakhand – a region with many Hindu temples that attracts pilgrims.