India tunnel rescue efforts stopped briefly over fears of further collapse

The efforts to rescue 41 workers trapped in an under-construction tunnel in Uttarkashi hit another roadblock after the new machine could not drill further. Photo by Abhyudaya Kotnala/EPA-EFE

Nov. 18 (UPI) -- Rescue workers temporarily paused their desperate attempts to free 41 construction workers trapped inside a collapsed tunnel when they heard cracking noises that created a "panic situation."

Senior-level government leaders instead met to collaborate their efforts to rescue those trapped in the collapsed tunnels in Uttarakhand since Sunday. They had been using high-powered machinery to drill down from the mountaintop to possibly create a space for workers to crawl out.

When the trapped workers heard cracking noises, they worried the roof would cave, The Guardian reported.

"We have decided to go with a pause-and-go approach to maintain the equilibrium," Anshu Manish Khalkho, director of the state-run highway management company National Highways and Infrastructure Development Corporation Limited, told CNN.

Rescue workers have been sending food, water, oxygen and medicine through a six-inch pipe to the workers trapped underground. Officials had hoped to start freeing workers earlier this week but then decided they needed better equipment to get the job done. It's unclear when officials expect to create a safe passageway.

The tunnel is part of the federal government's highway project to improve connections with famous Hindu pilgrimage spots in Uttarakhand.