13 workers trapped in Madi Hydro tunnel rescued

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    KASKI, April 26: 13 workers including a Chinese national trapped in the under-construction tunnel of the Upper Madi Hydropower project have been rescued safely after 16 hours on Saturday.

    A landslide shut the mouth of the tunnel of the under-construction 25 MW Upper Madi Hydropower Project in Sildjure VDC, Kaski district Friday afternoon. Altogether 16 workers remain trapped inside the tunnel. Rescue efforts are under way. (Photo courtesy: Sagar Raj Timilsina)
    A landslide shut the mouth of the tunnel of the under-construction 25 MW Upper Madi Hydropower Project in Sildjure VDC, Kaski district Friday afternoon. Altogether 16 workers remain trapped inside the tunnel. Rescue efforts are under way. (Photo courtesy: Sagar Raj Timilsina)

    The workers were rescued at around 3:30 am this morning after a frantic efforts that continued throughout the night, police informed, adding that they have been discharged after primary treatment at the Pokhara-based Western Regional Hospital. 

    Those rescued are Manoj Pulami, 23, Umesh Kumar Rai, 21, Narayan Shrestha, 29, Bishnu Lama, 54, Bishal Gole, 21, Nawaraj Thokar, 19 and Deuram Thokar, 27.

    Likewise, Ganesh Thapa Magar, 25, Sher Bahadur Tamang, 18, Ram Chandra BK, 32, Sujan Bhujel, 18, Shivaram Tamang, 20 and 50-year-old Chinese national Youzhan Ming were rescued from the 125-meter tunnel at Sijdure VDC in the district. 

    According to SP, Basanta Kumar Lama, three others believed to be trapped in the tunnel after the exit was blocked by a sudden landslide yesterday afternoon are still unaccounted for as of this morning.

    The condition of excavator operator Sujan Gurung, Nagendra Tamang and Arjun Tamang is still unknown.

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    16 trapped in Upper Madi Hydro tunnel

    POKHARA, April 25: “Do rescue us earliest possible. We´re trapped inside but members of our group are safe so far,” a voice was heard through an iron pipe inserted into the tunnel. 

    That the trapped workers were safe not only brought a sigh of relief but also came as a surprise for those waiting outside. They have been trapped for around nine hours in the 125-meter tunnel at the 25 MW Upper Madi Hydropower project after the exit was blocked by a sudden landslide Friday. 

    The 16 workers became trapped in the under-construction tunnel at Sijdure VDC, Kaski district after the landslide struck at around 1 pm.

    Those trapped include one Chinese and 15 Nepalis. Thirteen of them including the Chinese are safe and have not experienced any difficulties so far, according to Superintendent of Police (SP)Basant Kumar Lama of Kaski District Police Office, who had reached the site. 

    Lama further said, “Whereabouts of three workers, including an excavator operator and his assistants, are yet to be ascertained. We are trying to rescue the 13, who are safe and in communication.”

    “Following the blockage of the tunnel, we had lost hope that the workers trapped inside would be alive. But we could hear their voices through the iron pipe, which was inserted into the tunnel to supply oxygen from the outside,” Lama said, adding that they were told not to worry since rescue work was under way. 

    Rocks from the landslide have blocked the tunnel outlet and clearing them might take some time, he added. 

    The landslide hit the site from some 300 meters above the tunnel, said Ganga Dutta Sapkota, supervisor for workers at the tunnel. 

    He further said excavators have been mobilized to clear the blockage. For the time being, oxygen and water are being supplied to the trapped workers through the pipe at intervals of 10 minutes. 

    The Upper Madi Hydropower project is being constructed with 80 percent of the total investment by China International Water and Electric Corporation (CWE) and 20 percent by Nepali investors. The total cost of the proejct has been estimated at around Rs. 6.5 billion. 

    The landslide has occured at the main section of the tunnel between the source of the water to the powerhouse, informed Ramraj Koirala, project coordinator. 

    The trapped workers, including the 13 who are in communication and the three missing, have not been rescued as of 10 pm on Friday. They have been trapped inside the tunnel for nine hours already.