Rescuers in India have altered their approach as they enter the final week of their efforts to reach survivors of a devastating tunnel collapse.
The collapse occurred last Tuesday, when a 1.2km mountain tunnel, part of a highway project connecting two districts in the western Indian state of Maharashtra, collapsed. Since then, rescue workers and police personnel have been desperately trying to reach the estimated 30 people buried in the debris.
In a statement released on Monday, the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) said that they have “changed the approach of rescue operations” in order to speed up the process and rescue those trapped inside the tunnel.
The new approach, which involves a combination of manual digging with the help of specialized gadgets, has allowed the rescuers to reach 130 metres from the entrance which had been blocked since the collapse.
In earlier attempts to locate the trapped people, rescue workers used drones and thermal cameras to map the debris. But the workers had to take frequent breaks due to high levels of toxic gas inside the tunnel.
The NDRF said that it is now confident of completing the search and rescue mission before the week is out and asked the public not to panic or spread false information. “We have the correct information that turns out to be very true and trustworthy in this mission,” it said.
The NDRF’s ambition was echoed by Union Minister of State for Civil Aviation, Hardeep Singh Puri, who vowed on Saturday that the rescue team will “try to finish the task before next week.