Rescuers in India were on Monday using excavators in an attempt to reach road workers trapped inside a collapsed tunnel in the northern state of Uttarakhand.
"All the 40 workers trapped inside the tunnel are safe," Karamveer Singh Bhandari, a senior commander in the National Disaster Response Force, said in a statement. "We sent them water and food."
The workers have been trapped inside the tunnel for over 24 hours. Contact was initially made with them using a note on a scrap of paper, but later the rescuing team managed to connect with them using radio handsets.
What we know about the Uttarakhand tunnel collapse
The collapse took place on Sunday in the mountainous state which is home to a number of Hindu temples that attract pilgrims and tourists.
The 4.5-kilometer (2.7-mile) tunnel is being constructed between Silkyara and Dandalgaon to connect two of the holiest Hindu shrines of Uttarkashi and Yamnotri.
The tunnel is part of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Char Dham Road Project, which aims to connect some of the most popular Hindu shrines in the country, as well as areas bordering China.
The collapsed portion of the tunnel is about 200 meters (500 feet) from the entrance, officials told the Press Trust of India news agency.
Rescue efforts underway
Chief Minister of Uttarakhand, Pushkar Singh Dhami, on Monday flew to the site of the accident. He said the work to remove the tons of tumbled concrete debris were "being made continuously to bring them out safely", he wrote on social media platform X, formerly Twitter.
Along with food and water, rescue teams are also pumping oxygen in the blocked portion of the tunnel.
"Some small food packets were sent in through a pipe which is also taking oxygen inside," rescue official Durgesh Rathodi told Agence France Press news agency.
Officials overlooking the rescue mission said excavators have so far removed about 20 meters (65 feet) of heavy debris, but the trapped men were 40 meters beyond that point.
"Due to excess debris in the tunnel, we are facing some difficulty in the rescue, but our team is leaving no stone unturned," Bhandari added.
kb/rt (AP, AFP)