Efforts are underway to rescue over a dozen workers in southern China who were trapped inside an under-construction tunnel that sprung a leak and subsequently flooded, two days after the mishap occurred.
An evacuation had begun on Wednesday after workers noticed the tunnel had sprung a leak. The tunnel collapsed in the early hours of Thursday after water started to seep inside.
Fourteen of the workers, however, could not be reached because the tunnel collapsed, leaving them trapped more than a kilometre away from the entrance, reported Reuters.
The workers were part of a construction team building the tunnel under a reservoir.
The area where the water began leaking has been sealed, said officials. The reasons behind the flooding, however, remain unclear.
Rescuers have made slow but steady progress in trying to reach the trapped workers, according to Chinese state media.
As of noon on Friday, rescuers were 395.3 metres into the Shijingshan tunnel, state media cited Zhuhai’s vice mayor Zhang Yisheng as saying at a news conference.
They were, however, still 764.4m away from where the workers were trapped, Mr Zhang said.
Rescue teams are pumping out water from the tunnel and the reservoir is being drained, according to state media.
According to China’s Global Times, over a hundred rescue personnel reached the spot from nearby areas, with the local fire department dispatching 19 vehicles and five pumping stations to bring out the trapped workers safely.
This is not the first time an accident has taken place in the highway tunnel. In March, a wall that was part of the project collapsed and killed two workers.
The tunnel is part of a major expressway project at Zhuhai in China’s Guangdong province, linking the coastal city to a bridge to neighbouring Macau and Hong Kong.
Additional reporting by agencies