For the first time since they became trapped in a Himalayan road tunnel, the faces of the 41 labourers have been captured on video.
The workers became stranded last Sunday about 500 feet from the Silkyara tunnel’s entrance after landslides caused a partial collapse in Uttarakhand, India.
Poking their heads through a pipeline that burst through the debris to grab a camera inside, rescuers made direct contact with the men last night.
In the clip, an emergency official asks the men to stand in front of the camera and smile and wave as they told them: ‘We will reach you all soon, don’t worry.’
The men, many migrant workers from far-flung states, form a semi-circle around the camera and can be seen wearing helmets and construction worker jackets inside the brightly lit three-mile-long tunnel.
One labourer was able to record a message to his loved ones, the Asian News Network reported.
The labourers have been trapped inside the tunnel for 10 days (Picture: AFP)
The medical endoscopic camera was slipped through a pipe that pierced the debris (Picture: AFP)
State officials say the men are doing just fine (Picture: AFP)
‘Mother, do not worry about me, I am fine. Please, and father, eat your meals on time,’ said Jaydev, the worker.
The video, released by the state’s Department of Information and Public Relations, was filmed using a medical endoscopic camera tied to a flexible cable lowered into a six-inch pipe.
‘All workers inside the tunnel are safe,’ the department said on X.
In a press note, state officials said rescuers are providing steady supplies of ‘oxygen, nutritious food and water’, including dried fruit and the rice and lentil dish khichdi. Wi-Fi will also be installed.
Rescuers have now been working around the clock to rescue the men, sending supplies down pipelines and using drills and even robots to remove debris.
The workers were building a part of a road leading to four Hindu shrines, a plan plagued by environmental concerns and landslide fears that became a reality.
Debris is blocking the men from leaving (Picture: AFP/Getty Images)
Steel pipes are now Indian officials’ silver bullet to get the workers out, with the plan for the men to crawl through the pipe to bypass the debris.
Rescuers and relatives are chatting with the workers on walkie-talkies (with one man being seen holding the two-way device in the clip) as state leaders say they are on ‘war footing’.
Who is trapped inside the Uttarkashi tunnel?
According to the Indian TV channel ABP News, these are the known names of those trapped inside the tunnel:
Gabbar Singh Negi, Uttarakhand
Sabah Ahmed, Bihar
Sonu Shah, Bihar
Manir Talukdar, West Bengal
Sevik Pakhera, West Bengal
Akhilesh Kumar, UP
Jaydev Parmanik, West Bengal
Virendra Kisku, Bihar
Sapan Mandal, Odisha
Sushil Kumar, Bihar
Vishwajeet Kumar, Jharkhand
Subodh Kumar, Jharkhand
Bhagwan Batra, Odisha
Ram Milan, UP
Jai Prakash, UP
Ram Sundar, Uttarakhand
Anil Bedia, Jharkhand
Shrajendra Bedia, Jharkhand
Tiku Sardar, Jharkhand
Vishesh Nayak, Odisha
Raju Nayak, Odisha
Mudtu Murm, Jharkhand Dhiren,
Odisha Chamra Orao, Jharkhand
Vijay Horo, Jharkhand
Ram Prasad, Assam
Vishal, Himachal Pradesh
Deepak Kumar, Bihar
Pushkar Singh Dhami, the chief minister of Uttarakhand, said on X that the central government is assisting the government’s emergency response agency, the State Disaster Response Fund (SDRF) and state administrators in the rescue effort.
‘We are working on a war footing to evacuate all the workers safely,’ he added.
Dhami told reporters today that an investigation into why the tunnel caved in will happen but only after the workers are rescued.
Karan Mehra, the head of Uttarakhand’s branch of the Indian National Congress (INC), a national political party also called Congress, led a ritual yesterday praying for their safe return.
The party officials came together in the Panchayathi Mandir temple in Dehradun to perform the Hindu ceremony known as a homa, in which offerings are burnt in a hearth-altar.
New Delhi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Vijay Goel also performed the rite, sometimes called havan, in the Hanuman Temple.
Sunita Hembrom, the sister-in-law of Surendra Kisko, one of the low-wage workers, managed to get a hold of Kisko.
‘He said, “Take care of yourselves, the children and parents,”‘ she told reporters, according to Reuters. ‘”Just tell us what they are doing to get us out of here.”‘
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