According to site engineers, it is only a matter of hours before the workers are rescued from the tunnel that had collapsed on them on September 12. But cooped up under the debris with hardly any daylight for over a week, the brave workers are nervous.
“Why have the machines fallen silent? Why is there no activity for the past 12 hours? Have you stopped drilling?” a shaken Satish Tomar, one of the trapped workers, asked district officials after another technical snag on Saturday night forced the rescue work to stall. Rescue workers were able to send a camera through the debris to the trapped workers so that they could maintain contact.
When officials said they will continue drilling, Satish offered them advice: “Kindly check if the bore is filled with water after the rains. You need to drain out the water first before drilling. If it’s 39.5 meter, I think you guys must be very close.”
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Mani Ram, the other worker trapped with him, asked for a screwdriver. “We need it for some work inside to keep ourselves busy,” he said.
Dr Sumit, who is on duty at the medical camp nearby, said that the trapped workers were regularly supplied fruit and water. “We have asked them to maintain proper hygiene, and have provided soap and handwash. They have been told to urinate or defecate at a marked spot. We are also in constant touch to keep their morale high.”
Meanwhile, housed in a makeshift room, barely 600 meters from the collapsed tunnel, the family of the trapped workers are a nervous lot.
“Before the tragedy, my brother Satish had told me, ‘The tunnel is developing cracks at some places. I guess it is due to loose strata or some seepage. I want to get out of this job, I am not happy,” said Vinod Tomar from Toru village, Sirmaur district.
While two of the three trapped workers have been able to contact their family. There is no news of the third, Hriday Ram.
“Our prayers will be answered,” said Pankaj, Hriday Ram’s nephew. They had just completed a puja for the safe return of all three workers.