Rescuers have managed to drill through 24 metres into the rubble inside the Silkyara Tunnel, and are getting closer to 40 labourers who have been trapped inside, following the collapse of the under-construction tunnel for six days now.
“We have reached 24 metres inside which is a good situation. We are trying to reach the other end as soon as possible…We are airlifting another machine from Indore, it will reach here tomorrow morning…” NHIDCL Director Anshu Manish Khalkho said today.
Of the estimated 60 metres they have to cover to reach the trapped workers, rescuers had worked overnight using a new auger drill machine brought in from Delhi and managed to drill upto a depth of 25 metre through the debris after which the machine hit a metal part inside.
Officials said that efforts being made to cut through it using a gas cutter and drilling work was currently halted.
Rescue teams are hoping to evacuate the trapped workers by inserting 800m and 900 m steel pipes to create an escape route out of the tunnel. National Disaster Response Force personnel (NDRF), who are at the site also carried out a mock drill of a “possible evacuation through the 900mm wide steel pipes”.
“The American auger is a highly advanced drilling machine. Four pipes have been already inserted and welding for the fifth one is underway. We will rescue all the labourers,” Uttarkashi Superintendant of Police Arpan Yadavanshi said this morning.
The police official stated that all technical workers were working round-the-clock to rescue the stranded labourers.
“SDRF, NDRF, Police, medical workers, fire service, everyone is working in co-ordination to safely rescue the labourers. We are also conducting a mock drill to provide medical aid to them as soon as they are rescued,” SP Yadavanshi said.
The under-construction tunnel between Silkyara and Dandalgaon on the Brahmakhal-Yamunotri national highway collapsed in the early hours of November 12.
In a statement released to media on Friday, the National Highways & Infrastructure Development Corporation Limited, the firm building the tunnel said that excavation with shotcreting (concrete spraying) for 40 meter of the collapsed tunnel is under progress and a cavity has been formed 10 meter above the crown at both left and right side, and a chimney formation has started along the tunnel.
An additional shotcrete machine has been shifted from RVNL Package-lll to work site, it said
The 4531-metre Silkyara Tunnel is part of the Chardham Project of Ministry of Road Transport and Highways to join the Gangotri and Yamunotri axis under the Radi pass area is under construction by NHIDCL through Navayuga Engineering Company Ltd at a cost of Rs 853.79 crore.
The construction of tunnel, according to NHIDCL shall immensely benefit pilgrims as it will provide an all-weather connectivity, shorten the distance by 26 Km and save them one hour of travel time through steep, mountainous and narrow roads which are prone to accident and landslides.
All stranded labourers are safe as of now, according to an official release.
“Water, food, oxygen, and electricity are all available with the work force trapped inside the tunnel, Small food packets have also been pumped inside the tunnel through one pipe with compressed air. All the stranded workers are safe as communicated by them,” stated the release.
According to sources, after the rescue operation, workers will be taken to Rishikesh AIIMS for treatment.
As per the Uttarakhand Chief Minister’s Office, Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami has instructed the state administration to coordinate with the central agencies and engage in rescue operations 24 hours a day.
On Tuesday, District Magistrate Abhishek Ruhela, along with the senior doctor of the District Hospital, Dr Prem Pokhriyal, went inside the tunnel and talked to the workers through the pipe.
Dhami on Thursday said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi is reviewing the rescue operation to evacuate 40 workers trapped inside the collapsed under-construction tunnel in Uttarkashi.
“We are in regular contact with the trapped them. All the arrangements for them are being made there. Everyone is safe. Work was done by the NHIDCL and the tunnel was on the verge of completion, and just 400 metres were left… Now we will review it all… PM Modi is reviewing the rescue operation and is continuously in contact with all of us,” Dhami told ANI. (ANI)