India rescues 20 trapped miners as death toll rises


Tue, Aug 10, 2004 - Page 5

Relief teams cut through silt and debris yesterday and rescued 20 workers who had been trapped in a tunnel for more than 24 hours after a torrential downpour in a remote Indian Himalayan region.

The construction workers, building a tunnel for a power project, were trapped underground when the exit was blocked following a storm on Sunday in Kullu district in the northern state of Himachal Pradesh, 500km north of New Delhi.

"All 20 people have been saved as there was plenty of oxygen in the kilometer-long tunnel," A.K. Puri, director general of police, told reporters. "Rescue officials and locals used excavation machinery to dig through the mouth of the tunnel. Last night's rain made the excavation work easier."

A National Hydroelectric Power Corp official said the condition of the workers was fine.

"As these men have been without food for almost 30 hours, they have been administered glucose and will be kept under observation for some time," said NHPC's Gyan Bhadra.

Dozens of huts where the mostly migrant laborers lived in Barshaini village were washed away after the cloudburst which brought down tonnes of slush and boulders.

Meanwhile, 39 bodies were found floating in receding flood waters in eastern India, officials said yesterday, as the death toll from this season's monsoon rains across South Asia rose above 2,000.

The toll already is well above last year when 1,500 people were killed during the monsoon, which usually runs from June through September, though last year continued into October.

At least 1,191 people have died in India, 694 in Bangladesh, 124 in Nepal and five in Pakistan, bringing the toll to 2,014, according to figures supplied by authorities in each country and compiled by reporters. Victims have mostly died from drowning, mudslides and waterborne diseases.