Srinagar: The chances of survival of at least nine labourers buried under the debris of an under-construction tunnel on the vital Srinagar-Jammu highway since Thursday night are becoming bleak with every passing hour.
The rescue operation, that was started immediately after the tunnel collapsed, was suspended as fresh slabs of stone and mud caved in on Friday afternoon, a report said. Earlier, the corpse of one of the victims had been retrieved from under the debris by the rescuers, said an official. Confirming it, station house officer Nahiem Matoo said that his identity could not be ascertained immediately.
Jammu’s divisional commissioner, Ramesh Kumar, and additional DGP Mukesh Singh, after visiting the site, said a massive rescue operation was underway, and the Army had joined the J&K State Disaster Response Force (SDRF) and the police to lend a hand.
The officials said at around 10.15 pm on Thursday, the Ajit tunnel of T3 near Khooni Nallah in Ramban district along NH44 caved in, trapping more than a dozen labourers of Sarla Company working at the site. The tunnel is part of a Rs 11,721-crore project for upgrading the 60-km stretch of the road between Nashri and Banihal in Ramban district to make it a four-lane highway before December 2023.
The officials said three labourers were rescued in injured condition in the initial stage of the operation and hospitalised immediately. One of them, identified as 33-year-old Vishnu Gola from Jharkhand, was later referred to Jammu’s Government Medical College Hospital for advanced treatment, they said.
They said that rock breakers and other equipment were being utilised to rescue nine other labourers who remain buried under the debris. Asked about the chances of their survival, Ramban’s deputy commissioner, Masrat-ul-Islam, said: “Nothing can be said as of now.” He told local news agency GNS: “The length of the tunnel is around three meters only and whether they are inside it or outside the tunnel area is not specifically known. The debris is all around. There are chances of suffocation also. The rescue operation has been going on since 12 am.”
He said it was a delicate operation as far as vulnerability was concerned for shooting stones are continuously falling, and for this reason even heavy machinery cannot be employed in the operation.
The missing persons have been identified as Jadav Roy (23), Gautam Roy (22), Sudhir Roy(31), Dipak Roy (33), Parimal Roy (38) -- all from West Bengal; Shiva Chowhn (26) from Assam; Nawaraj Chowdhury (26) and Kushi Ram (25), both from Nepal; Muzaffar Ahmed (38) and Ishrat (30), both locals.