Uttarkashi/New Delhi, November 19 (Language) Rescue work in the collapsed Silkyara tunnel in Uttarakhand came to a near standstill on Sunday as agencies prepared themselves for the next phase of the rescue operation to reach 41 people trapped there for a week.
Officials said a road was built to the top of the mountain of debris in a single day to insert a vertical pipe into the tunnel. Additionally, Tehri Hydropower Development Corporation (THDC) will start ‘micro tunneling’ work from the Barkot end, for which heavy machinery has already been mobilized. THDC will start work from Sunday night itself.
About 30 meters of the under-construction tunnel, 270 meters inside the mouth from the Silkyara side, had collapsed at around 5.30 am last Sunday and since then the workers are trapped inside it. Rescue and relief operations are being conducted on war footing to rescue them.
Boring amid the debris of the collapsed section 60 meters from the Silkyara end was stopped on Friday afternoon when the US-made auger machine encountered a hard obstruction after about 22 metres.
After this, the rescue operation was reviewed again on Friday. Authorities made several alternative plans to reach the workers trapped inside the under-construction tunnel.
Union Road Transport and Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari, after reviewing the rescue operations on the spot, told reporters that considering the current circumstances, horizontal drilling into the debris with an American auger machine is the quickest way to reach the workers trapped in the tunnel. He expressed hope of getting success in two and a half days.
In a release issued to the media in Delhi, it was said that the drilling will resume on Monday after security arrangements are made for the rescue workers.
Rescue workers inserted 39 meters of six-inch-wide tube into the debris by Sunday evening. When this tube crosses the collapsed part, food and water will also be sent to the trapped workers through this pipe.
Officials said a small four-inch pipe is being used for ‘compression’ (pressure) and food, water, oxygen and medicines are being sent through it.
The part where the workers are trapped is about two kilometers of the constructed part of the tunnel and is 8.5 meters high and electricity and water are available there, the release said.
Rail Vikas Nigam Limited has started work on a vertical pipeline to supply essential commodities after the completion of the access road to the top of the debris mountain.
Union Road Transport and Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari said on Sunday that every possible effort is being made to save the workers trapped in the Silkyara Tunnel and getting them out soon is the biggest priority of the government.
The Union Minister, who reached the spot along with Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami, said that the rescue operation is challenging in view of the difficult Himalayan conditions.
He said that the level of soil here is not uniform and it is both soft and hard, making it difficult to carry out mechanical operations.
Gadkari said, “The American auger machine was working properly when it was drilling in soft soil, but when it encountered a hard obstacle, problems started arising. Due to this, excessive pressure had to be applied on the machine which caused vibration and it was stopped due to safety reasons.
The Union Minister said that it is everyone’s collective responsibility at this time to maintain the morale of the workers and their families trapped in the tunnel.
He said, “We are currently working on six options simultaneously. The Prime Minister’s Office is also closely monitoring the rescue operation. Our biggest priority is to rescue all the stranded workers as soon as possible. Whatever is necessary will be done.
Gadkari said that whatever machine or technical assistance is required will be provided.
He said that oxygen, electricity, food, water and medicines are continuously being provided to the stranded workers.
Gadkari said that apart from the pipe through which food is being supplied till now, an alternative pipe of larger diameter has also been inserted so that roti, vegetables and rice can also be provided to them.
The Union Minister said that experts from various fields have been gathered and their advice has been sought as to what methods should be adopted to rescue the trapped workers safely.
He said that preparations are underway to start vertical drilling from the top of the tunnel and every possible method is being adopted to get the workers out quickly.
Uttarakhand Disaster Management Secretary Ranjit Kumar Sinha said the minister suggested that there could be space between the top of the debris and the roof of the tunnel and it could be explored by robots to see if another pipe could be pushed inside.
Roads, Transport and Highways Secretary Anurag Jain on Sunday said the central government is committed to the safe evacuation of 41 workers trapped in the Silkyara Tunnel in Uttarkashi since November 12 and is working on a five-option action plan for this.
Jain released a video to provide updates on the Uttarkashi tunnel rescue operation. He said that the government is committed to the safe evacuation of all the workers and multivitamins, anti-depressants and dry fruits are being sent to the workers.
He said, “Five options have been decided and five different agencies have been decided to fulfill these options.” Responsibilities assigned to five agencies namely Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC), Sutlej Hydropower Corporation (SJVNL), Rail Vikas Nigam Limited (RVNL), National Highways and Infrastructure Development Corporation Limited (NHIDCL) and Tehri Hydro Development Corporation Limited (THDCL). Has gone.”
Located at a distance of about 30 km from Uttarkashi district headquarters, Silkyara Tunnel is part of the Central Government’s ambitious Chardham ‘All Weather Road’ (all-weather road) project.
The tunnel is being constructed under the National Highways and Infrastructure Development Corporation Limited (NHIDCL).
Jain said that after the Border Roads Organization (BRO) completed the construction of an approach road in just one day, RVNL has started working on another vertical pipeline to supply essential commodities.
SJVNL will do vertical drilling to rescue the trapped workers. Accordingly, the equipment has been mobilized from Gujarat and Odisha through Railways as it could not be transported by air being a 75-tonne equipment.
ONGC, which specializes in deep drilling, has also started preliminary work of vertical drilling from the Barkot end.
The central government had held a high-level meeting on Saturday, in which five options to save the workers were discussed with various agencies that were entrusted with the responsibility of working on specific options.
NHIDCL Managing Director Mahmood Ahmed has been made in-charge of coordination with all central agencies and has been posted at Silkyara.
Jain said that the government is in constant touch and is making every possible effort to maintain the morale of the workers trapped inside the tunnel.
“The area where the workers are trapped is 8.5 meters high and two kilometers long,” he said. This includes the constructed portion of the tunnel where concreting work has been completed, providing safety to the workers.
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