Puffed rice and yoga: inside the collapsed tunnel where Indian workers await rescue

Workers trapped in collapsed tunnel are suffering from dysentery and anxiety over their rescue

Rescue workers in orange jumpsuits and helmets at the entrance to the Silkyara road tunnel
Rescue workers enter the under-construction Silkyara road tunnel
(Image credit: Arun Sankar / AFP))

Efforts to rescue 41 men trapped inside a collapsed tunnel in India have resumed after drilling was halted over safety concerns.

The workers have been stuck in the under-construction Silkyara tunnel in Uttarkashi since 12 November, when part of it collapsed due to a landslide.

Rescuers established contact within hours and have been supplying essentials such as "oxygen, dry snacks and water" through a pipeline "laid for supplying water to the tunnel for construction work", reported the BBC

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But more than 10 days into their ordeal, some of the men have begun to suffer health issues "ranging from dysentery to headaches and increasing anxiety over their safe rescue", said The Independent.

So far, the trapped men have survived on a diet of puffed rice, a chickpea curry called chana and dry fruits, said The Indian Express. But with a new, wider "six-inch supply pipe reaching them through the debris" on Monday, authorities are hoping to diversify their food supply with "bananas, apple slices, dalia [a cracked wheat porridge] and khichdi [a rice and dhal dish]", said the paper. 

They will also provide the men with further essentials such as medicines, mobile phones and chargers, and have been encouraging them to participate in a range of activities in order to maintain their resilience and mental health. 

"We've kept constant contact, suggesting activities like yoga, walking, and encouraging conversations among them to maintain high morale," Abhishek Sharma, a government-appointed psychiatrist, told the paper.

One man, named Gabbar Singh Negi, has been in a similar situation before, he said. "Being the oldest among them, he is ensuring everyone's confidence remains high."

Another government official said that the men were being sent multivitamins and antidepressants to help them cope with the ordeal. "Fortunately, there is light inside the area because the electricity is on," he told NDTV.

Work to rescue the trapped men was suspended on Friday after rescuers reportedly "heard a cracking sound while drilling", said the BBC. 

Authorities stopped rescue work due to the risk of new landslides. The area is prone to landslides, earthquakes and floods.

However, rescuers resumed drilling near the mouth of the tunnel at around 2am local time on Wednesday (8.30pm on Tuesday GMT), said officials. Rescue teams have drilled around 39m (128ft) through the debris so far.

The BBC also reported that an alternative plan to rescue the men by drilling down vertically from the mountain-top is also "on track" according to authorities. 

Officials remain confident they will be able to rescue the men, but there is little clarity on how long the operation will take. Officials told a press briefing earlier today that they hoped to be able to share some "good news" by tonight or Thursday. 

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