A Hindu priest prays at a makeshift shrine outside the entrance of a tunnel where workers are trapped after a part of the tunnel collapsed in Uttarkashi, in India’s northern Uttarakhand state, November 21, 2023. REUTERS

SILKYARA, India — The first images emerged Tuesday of 41 men trapped for more than a week in a road tunnel in the Indian Himalayas, showing them standing in the confined space and communicating with rescuers.

The men have been trapped in the 4.5km tunnel in Uttarakhand state since it collapsed early on November 12 and are safe, authorities said, with access to light, oxygen, food, water and medicine.

They did not say what caused the collapse, but the region is prone to landslides, earthquakes and floods. Efforts to extract the 41 men were slowed by obstacles drilling through the rubble in the mountainous terrain.

A 30-second video provided by authorities showed about a dozen men trapped in a semicircle in front of the camera, wearing construction workers’ helmets and jackets over their clothes, against a backdrop of tunnel lights.

A rescue team outside could be heard telling the men to come forward on camera one by one to confirm their identities on the walkie-talkie equipment that had been sent.

The video was filmed by a medical endoscopy camera that was pushed through a second, wider, 6-inch-diameter duct drilled into the rubble on Monday, authorities said.

In the video, the trapped men appeared to be fine, responding that they were fine in response to questions about their well-being, said a rescue control room official who spoke to Reuters on condition of anonymity.

Rescuers were expected to resume drilling horizontally through a 60-meter (195-foot) pile of debris on Tuesday to reach a pipe large enough for the trapped men to crawl out.

Drilling was suspended on Friday after a machine problem and fears of a further collapse.

Authorities are simultaneously working on five other plans to evacuate workers, including vertical drilling from the top of the mountain.

Abhishek Sharma, a psychiatrist sent to the site by the state government, said he asked the 41 men to walk within the 2km area where they are confined, do light yoga exercises and talk to each other regularly to remain calm. busy.

“Sleep is very important to them… and so far they have been sleeping well and have not reported any difficulty sleeping,” Sharma told Reuters, adding that the men were in good spirits and looking forward to going out soon.

Another doctor at the site, Prem Pokhriyal, said the men were told to avoid heavy exercise that could increase the build-up of carbon dioxide gas in the confined space as they exhaled.

The trapped men are low-paid workers, most of them from poor states in northern and eastern India.

“He said he is fine,” Sunita Hembrom, sister-in-law of one of the workers trapped in the tunnel, Surendra Kisko, told reporters after speaking to him.

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“He said, ‘Take care of yourselves, your children and your parents. Just tell us what they’re doing to get us out of here.’”



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