After warnings of the risk of collapse were ignored, an Indian government megaproject to connect Hindu temples through a tunnel within the Himalayas and create a pilgrimage route ended in tragedy.
On Sunday (12), part of the tunnel collapsed during construction, and 40 workers were trapped. They are being kept alive by some kind of oxygen pump that rescue teams managed to send under the rubble.
The accident occurred in the state of Uttarakhand, which is in northern India and is crossed by the Himalayan mountain range.
Partial collapse of Himalayan tunnel leaves 40 workers trapped in India
The tunnel is just a section of about 5 kilometers of a controversial highway that the government is building to create a pilgrimage route Hindu in the region.
- The highway, called Char Dham, is one of the most ambitious projects of the prime minister’s government of the country, Narendra Modi.
- The goal is connect four pilgrimage sites across 889 km of road.
- Work on the tunnel section began in 2018 and should be completed by July 2022but were postponed until May 2024, according to a government statement.
- One of the reasons that drew attention in the country was the cost of the work, US$ 1.5 billion (around R$7.3 billion).
- At the beginning of the works, the project was the target of criticism from environmental experts, and Some works were interrupted after hundreds of houses along the highway were damaged.
- Then, a 2020 Supreme Court of India report concluded that the impact of the project was not properly assessed before construction began.
- The court ended up approving the highway in 2021, but warned that the government should address issues raised by an independent commission appointed by the Supreme Court. In 2022, however, the director of that commission claimed that the government was not implementing its recommendations.
In addition to the region being prone to landslides, earthquakes and floods, days before the incident, local geologists recorded “earth sinking events that they attributed to very rapid construction in the Himalayan mountains.
Tunnel collapses in India and 40 people are trapped
While the country demands explanations from the Prime Minister about the irregularities, authorities are racing against time to find a solution and rescue the trapped workers – after a first phase of excavation, theRescue teams discovered that there is much more wreckage than they imagined on the way.
“This is a very challenging job because as we remove the rubble, more debris falls from the ceiling,” said Indian National Disaster Response Force director Mohsen Shahidi.
Uttarakhand disaster management coordinator Devendra Singh Patwal said rescuers had built a platform to insert a tube through which they will try to remove workers.
Patwal also stated that drilling work to insert this pipe into the mountain has already begun, but is being done with caution. to prevent further collapses. The coordinator also said he did not know how long it would take for his team to be able to remove the workers..