At least 40 workers were trapped in an Indian highway tunnel that collapsed, but rescue teams were unable to reach them because large boulders were obstructing efforts to clear a path for evacuation, according to officials on Wednesday.
The workers are still safe and well three days after the tunnel collapsed.
An official involved in the rescue efforts said Food, water, and oxygen have been provided to the stranded men via a pipe since Sunday morning after the tunnel collapsed at 5:30 a.m. (0000 GMT).
There were about 50-60 men working on the night shift in the 4.5-km (3-mile) tunnel, which is being built in neighbouring Uttarakhand state on a national highway that is part of the Char Dham Hindu pilgrimage route.
Local media reported on Tuesday that those near the exit of the tunnel got out, while the 40 who were deeper inside were trapped.
The Char Dham highway is one of the most ambitious projects of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist government. It aims to connect four pilgrimage sites revered by Hindus in Uttarakhand through 890 km (550 miles) of roads being built at a cost of $1.5 billion.
The mountainous region is prone to landslides, earthquakes and floods and the incident follows events of land subsidence that geologists, residents and officials have blamed on rapid construction in the mountains.
The project has faced criticism from environmental experts and some work had been halted after hundreds of houses were damaged by subsidence along the routes.
The work on the tunnel commenced in 2018 and was intended to be completed by July 2022, which has now been delayed to May 2024, a Government statement said.