Rescuers are close to evacuating two workers struck in a collapsed tunnel for over 180 hours in Himachal Pradesh, officials said on Sunday.The evacuation is likely to be completed by Sunday evening."We are awaiting the completion of the shaft. Once it's done, our men will reach the spot 42 metres beneath the ground to rescue the workers," Jaideep Singh, commanding officer of the National Disaster Response Force, told IANS.He said a 42-metre deep vertical shaft had been dug."Just one metre of digging is left. Once it's over, we will be in a position to reach the tunnel roof," he said."If conditions remain favourable, we are hopeful of evacuating the two workers and to trace the third one by today (Sunday) evening," a beaming Singh said.
An official involved in the digging operation said making a passage through the well-designed reinforced concrete structure, that too with a web of 32 mm rods, would be a Herculean task.Bilaspur Deputy Commissioner Manasi Sahay Thakur said they were in regular touch with the two trapped workers - Mani Ram and Tomar - through a microphone linked with a webcam.However, the whereabouts of the third worker, Hirdya Ram, are not known.Of the 1.2-km proposed tunnel of the Kiratpur-Manali expressway road project, 275 metres was excavated till disaster struck on September 12, an official source said.The contract for tunnel laying, involving an outlay of Rs.82 crore, has been assigned to the Chandigarh-based Himalayan Construction Co, whose workers, belonging to the hill state, are trapped.