Rescuers are making all-out drilling efforts to reach 12 workers who were trapped in a collapsed tunnel at the construction site of the Da Dang-Da Chomo hydropower plant in Central Highlands Lam Dong province since December 16.

By 9:00 am on December 19, they successfully drilled through a pile of soil and rock from the back of the tunnel reaching the collapsed section. This drill creates a 6-cm-diameter hole to support air ventilation for the workers.

The new hole, together with three others in the front of the tunnel, will help drain water in the tunnel faster, according to the rescue team, which includes military sappers, miners, and policemen.

In the meantime, the team has reportedly made progress in digging two auxiliary trenches on both sides the tunnel for bringing the workers out.

At 7:00 am on December 19, the diggers said they advanced about 15m for the right tunnel and 10m for the left one.

On December 18 night, rescuers began the second drill from the top of the hill where the tunnel runs through after the first one which went as deep as 40 meters before struck by rock and broken.

Early on December 19, the second drill was reported to go as deep as 30 metres through the 70-metre soil and rock pile. The 10-cm-diameter hole would allow better communications with the workers as well as providing a channel for the delivery of clothes and other food to keep them warm and healthy.

The 475 trillion VND (22.6 billion USD) plant, invested by the Civil Engineering Construction Corp. No. 5 (CIENCO 5), is designed to have a capacity of 22 MW.

The collapsed site is about 500 metres from the opening of the 700-m-long tunnel running though the mountain to bring water to the plant.

Thirty-two workers were in the tunnel when the collapse occurred and 20 of them were able to escape.

Deputy Prime Minister Hoang Trung Hai arrived at the scene on December 18 to direct the rescue operation.

Minister of Construction Trinh Dinh Dung, Minister of Industry and Trade Vu Huy Hoang, and Minister of Health Nguyen Thi Kim Tien were also present at the scene, pledging all necessary measures to be deployed to save the victims.-VNA