Uttarkashi, November 18 (Language) On Saturday, the seventh day of the Silkyara tunnel disaster in Uttarakhand, officials started preparations for drilling to make a ‘vertical hole’ above the hill below which there has been limited food and communication for the last almost a week. 41 workers are stranded along with him.
Officials expressed hope that the alternative route to the Silkyara tunnel under construction by the Border Roads Organization (BRO) would be prepared by Sunday afternoon and the rescue operation, which was halted since last Friday, would resume.
Bhaskar Khulbe, former advisor to the Prime Minister and currently Officer on Special Duty (OSD) in the Uttarakhand government, said in Silkyara that concerted efforts will yield good results in four-five days. He said, ‘But if God is willing, it can happen even before that.’
A team of Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) officials and experts on site have decided to work together on five plans to rescue the 41 people.
BRO Commanding Officer Major Naman Narula told reporters, “We are trying to make a vertical walkway over the tunnel. A point has been marked above the tunnel from where drilling will start soon. This walking path is 1000 to 1100 meters long. Along with this, we are also conducting a survey to know how much time it will take. “As per our estimate, this walkway will be ready by tomorrow (Sunday) afternoon.”
Officials present on the spot said that a powerful auger machine with high penetrating power has reached the spot from Indore to dig out the debris of the collapsed part of the tunnel being built on the Yamunotri National Highway and its parts are being connected so that it can be installed and reopened. Drilling should be started.
Located about 30 kilometers from Uttarkashi district headquarters, the Silkyara Tunnel is part of the Central Government’s ambitious Chardham Alvedar Road Project.
This tunnel is being constructed by National Highways and Infrastructure Development Corporation Limited.
A week has passed since the tunnel collapsed at 6 am last Sunday and with this the families of the workers standing outside have also started losing patience.
As time is passing, disappointment among the families of the workers is increasing. The restlessness of the family members has started increasing in view of the rescue operation which was halted since Friday afternoon due to some fault in the powerful American Agar machine brought to penetrate the debris and make an ‘escape passage’ by inserting steel pipes in it.
By the time the rescue operation was halted on Friday afternoon, four six meter long pipes had been inserted by drilling 22 meters into the debris with the auger machine, while the fifth pipe was being laid.
According to a statement issued by NHIDCL in this regard, during the laying of the fifth pipe at around 3.45 pm on Friday, a very loud crackling sound was heard in the tunnel, after which the rescue operation was stopped.
According to the statement, this sound spread panic among the rescue workers. An expert associated with the project also warned of some collapse nearby, after which the process of putting the pipe inside was stopped.
Meanwhile, officials are implementing several options available to them to quickly evacuate the stranded workers.
BRO Director General RS Rao said, “One option is to make a four-six inch hole, which will help in providing essential items to the stranded people. If the situation is favourable, a three feet diameter hole will also be made so that people can come out. This road will be 900 meters long and hopefully it will be ready by tomorrow morning.”
He said that currently four machines have been put to work while four more machines are arriving.
A team of officials from the Prime Minister’s Office and experts present on the spot have decided to work on five plans simultaneously to evacuate the 41 workers.
Uttarakhand Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami held a meeting with the officials regarding the rescue operations being carried out in Silkyara and directed to provide all possible help to the agencies working there to overcome the obstacles.
He expressed hope that the state-of-the-art machines made in the country and abroad will be successful in saving the workers.
Dhami said that under the direction of the Prime Minister’s Office, the state government is making all efforts to evacuate the workers. He said that the rescue operations will be successful soon.
He said that the government stands with the families of the workers in this hour of crisis and it is our priority to evacuate them safely and quickly.
For the families of the workers standing outside the tunnel, the wait is getting longer and their patience is wearing thin.
However, after talking to the workers on Saturday, his family members said that his voice was becoming weak and his strength seemed to be decreasing.
Haridwar Sharma, elder brother of Sushil, one of the workers trapped in the tunnel, said that the health of the men trapped in the tunnel, who are somehow passing the time while waiting to come out, is deteriorating and panic is increasing in their families.
Sharma, a resident of Rohtas district of Bihar, told PTI, “We are just getting assurances from the authorities that the stranded workers will be taken out. It’s been almost a week now.”
With tears in his eyes, Sharma said, “No work is going on inside the tunnel. Neither the company nor the government is doing anything. The company is saying that the machine is about to arrive.”
Among the people waiting outside the Silkyara Tunnel is the family of Gabbar Singh Negi of Kotdwar, Uttarakhand. His two brothers Maharaj Singh and Prem Singh and son Akash Singh are at the spot after receiving information about the incident and are desperate to get some good news.
Maharaj Singh said that he had talked to Gabbar Singh through the oxygen supply pipe and his voice seemed very weak.
Language No. Deepti Jitendra