Deputy Prime Minister Hoang Trung Hai talked to 12 workers trapped in a collapsed tunnel at the construction site of Da Dang - Da Chomo hydropower plant upon his arrival at the scene on the afternoon of December 18.

At the site in Lat commune, Lac Duong district, the Central Highlands province of Lam Dong, he assured the workers, including a woman that the maximum rescue efforts are being made to help them out as soon as possible.

Meeting with the rescue team, he praised their prompt and efficient coordination but showing his impatience when learning the work might take three more days to reach the workers.

He asked the team to continually reinforce the main tunnel to ensure safety for the rescuers as well as the three hoses which are used to send oxygen, food, and drink, and as a communications line with the workers, whose health condition is stable.

The rescuers need to make greater efforts, he said, asking for sending more personnel and making other geological researches to seek optimal solutions.

According to Nguyen Van Nen, Vice Chairman of the Lam Dong provincial People’s Committee, the team was drilling a hole from the top of the hill where the tunnel runs through, which went as deep as 40 meters out of 68 metres. The 10-centimeter hole would allow the sending of warm clothes and more food to the workers.

The rescue team has been working around the clock. They were joined by experienced engineers from the Vietnam National Coal and Mineral Industries Group on December 18.

Medical facilities were set up outside the tunnel to provide medical care to the workers once they were brought out.

In the meantime, the Da Dang-Da Chomo hydropower project, whose construction kicked off in 2003, is halted.

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.-VNA