Uttarakhand Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami on Saturday reached Uttarkashi to take stock of the ongoing rescue operation underway at the Silkyara tunnel.
Speaking to the media, Dhami said on Saturday that Prime Minister Narendra Modi is very sensitive towards the workers trapped in the Silkyara tunnel and he is taking detailed information every day about the well-being of the workers. Expressing hope for the successful rescue of the trapped workers, Dhami said, “We will soon be successful in evacuating the labour brothers safely.”
“Prime Minister Narendra Modi is very sensitive towards the workers trapped in Silkyara, Uttarkashi Tunnel. The Prime Minister is taking detailed information every day about the well-being of the workers and the ongoing relief and rescue operations in the tunnel. Central agencies, state administration and teams of international experts are working on all options, we will soon be successful in evacuating the labour brothers safely,” CM Pushkar Singh Dhami posted on X.
Meanwhile, international tunnel expert Arnold Dix, who is aiding in the rescue process, said on Saturday that there were multiple ways to rescue the trapped workers and the 41 men inside the Silkyara tunnel are coming home safely. He also spoke about the breakdown of the Auger machine, saying there would not be any new auger machine and other methods would be used for rescue operations.
“There are multiple ways. It’s not just one way. At the moment, everything is fine. You will not see the augering anymore. Auger’s work is finished. The auger (machine) has broken. It’s irreparable. It is disrupted. No more work from Auger. No more drilling from the Auger. There will not be a new auger,” International Tunnelling Expert Arnold Dix said.
“I said that 41 men are coming home safely and we’re not going to hurt anybody in the process. We’re looking at, as we’ve always been, multiple options. But with each option we’re considering right now, to do that, we evaluate all of the evidence that we have about how the mountain is behaving. Now, the mountain has again resisted the Auger, so we’re rethinking our approach. This is a decision that’s been made by all the experts, including Indian and local experts. The Himalayan experts from India are providing us with all the information we need. I am confident that 41 men are coming home.” added Arnold Dix.

“I’ll just say that I’ve always promised that they’d be home by Christmas. If you remember right from the beginning, I’ve never been. It is a long time, and they’re safe and they’re well, and if we rush, we can cause another problem in there. So we’re taking our time and being very considerate, and that’s what all these meetings are at the moment. Of course, there’ll be an announcement shortly about what we’re going to do,” he added.
Meanwhile, the Sutlej Jal Vidyut Nigam (SJVN) team has once again come on standby mode to do vertical drilling.
The team of 12 people at SJVN Limited is completely ready to do the drilling as long as they get the order.
Officials are exploring the option of vertical drilling too, as the heavy-duty auger machine that was used in the horizontal drilling through the mouth of the tunnel from the Silyara side hit an obstacle on Friday evening.
A final decision on the vertical drilling option is likely to be taken by Sutlej Jal Vidyut Nigam (SJVN) and the Oil and Natural Gas Corporation.
An SJVN official said, “We have given a proposal to the administration to do vertical drilling in 5 to 6 days; our team has done the survey for drilling; and apart from this, their drilling machine has also reached the spot to do the drilling. We are just waiting for the order to come.”
“The vertical drilling will be done from the top of the tunnel and about 85 to 90 metres will have to be drilled, which will take about 5 to 6 days. When drilling from inside the tunnel When the work of building the rescue tunnel gained momentum, the plan of doing vertical drilling was put on hold, but now, due to the hurdles we are facing, we have once again come into standby mode to see if the administration needs vertical drilling. We will start our work immediately after receiving the order,” added the SJVN official
Officials earlier today said that manual drilling will begin soon to cut through the rubble that separates rescuers from the 41 trapped workers in the collapsed portion of the Silkyara tunnel.
According to officials, manual drillers will get to work once the US-made, heavy-duty Auger drilling machine is removed from the pipeline through which the trapped workers are to be brought out.
Manual drillers will work to cut through the remaining rubble that separates the rescuers from the workers and enable the insertion of the pipeline through the further few metres that are yet to be covered.
The ongoing operation to rescue workers, who were trapped after a portion of the tunnel collapsed on November 12, entered its 14th day on Saturday.
Success could soon be achieved in taking the Auger driller out of the pipeline, officials informed further, adding that the heavy-duty drillers could now be moved back by 22 metres.
Speaking to ANI, a senior official involved with the rescue operation said manual drilling could start soon.
He added that the remaining debris, extending approximately up to 6 to 9 metres, which stands between the rescuers and the trapped workers, will be removed through manual drilling.
Elaborating on the reasons why the officials involved in the rescue operation have decided to remove the Auger from the pipeline, the senior official told ANI, “While drilling with the US-made Auger machine, if we hit an obstruction every two to three feet, we have to remove it. And, every time we hit an obstruction, we have to roll Auger back 50 metres (up to which the pipeline has been laid). After running repairs, the machine has to be pushed back up to 50 metres, which takes about 5 to 7 hours. This is the reason why the rescue operation is taking longer than it should.”
He informed them further that after drilling up to a further 5 metres, the rescuers will reach the final few metres that separate them from the trapped workers.
However, the officials refrained from quoting a timeframe within which the rescue mission could be completed, saying that they were hopeful of a positive outcome once the manual drilling starts on Saturday.
Earlier, a team of experts, who came to conduct a survey at the tunnel site, informed that there were no heavy objects up to 5 metres inside the tunnel.
The team from Parsan Overseas Pvt Ltd Delhi used the ground-penetrating radar (GPR) technique to examine the rescue tunnel.
Ground Penetrating Radar, also known as GPR, Georadar, Subsurface Interface Radar, or Geo-probing Radar, is a totally non-destructive technique to produce a cross-section profile of the subsurface without any drilling, trenching or ground disturbances.GPR profiles are used for evaluating the location and depth of buried objects and to investigate the presence and continuity of natural subsurface conditions and features.
After examining the rescue tunnel, geophysicist and GPR survey team member B Chendhoor said they were called to the scene after the Auger driller hit an obstruction.
After a portion of the tunnel caved in on November 12, the debris falling in the 60-metre stretch on the Silkyara side of the tunnel trapped 41 labourers inside.
The workers are trapped in a 2 km-built portion, which is complete, including concrete work, which provides them safety. (ANI)