Uttarakhand tunnel collapse: Amid setback, vertical drilling planned in race against time to rescue 41 workers : The Tribune India

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Uttarakhand tunnel collapse: Amid setback, vertical drilling planned in race against time to rescue 41 workers

Army joins in laying 320m track for installation of machine on tunnel hilltop



Tribune News Service

Neeraj Mohan

New Delhi, November 18

The fate of 41 workers, trapped in the partially collapsed Silkyara tunnel in Uttarakhand for the past seven days, remains uncertain as the rescue operation was suspended on Friday. Rescuers are now planning to opt for vertical or directional drilling to evacuate the trapped workers.

A drilling machine airlifted from Indore being brought to the rescue ops site in Uttarkashi on Saturday. PTI

Why escape tunnel not built?

Questions are now being raised about the construction company’s failure to provide an escape route or hume pipe, which is normally provided for emergency use.

PMO official at site

Bhaskar Khulbe, former adviser, PMO, and Mangesh Ghildiyal, Deputy Secretary, PMO, arrived at Silkyara tunnel on Saturday to monitor the situation.

Questions are now being raised about the construction company’s failure to adhere to safety protocols, leaving the trapped workers without a crucial escape route or hume pipe, which is normally provided for emergency use. Expressing concern, geologist Prof SP Sati said, “The absence of an escape tunnel or hume pipe from this critical tunnel has exposed serious lapses on the part of the construction company.” A project map, being circulated on social media, indicated the oversight in the construction of an escape route for the 4.5-km-long Silkyara tunnel.

Meanwhile, officials from the local disaster management office have updated the number of trapped individuals to 41.

Despite seven days of efforts, involving 160 professionals, rescue teams have been unable to create a passage through the 70 metre rubble. The operations were halted on Friday after technical experts reported a loud cracking sound, causing panic. The rescue teams are now considering alternative plans, including vertical drilling of around 80 to 120 metre to reach the stranded workers. It is learnt that the horizontal drilling, initially attempted, was deemed risky due to potential for further collapse. A 320-metre track is being constructed with help of the Army to facilitate the installation of a heavy auger machine for vertical drilling. Major Naman Narula said that the track would be completed by Sunday morning.

Bhaskar Khulbe, Special Executive Officer in the Uttarakhand Tourism Department and former adviser to PMO, visited the site and assured that all possible avenues, including vertical drilling, were being explored. He mentioned seeking expertise from outside India.

Despite the auger machine successfully drilling 25 metre and placing four pipes, the operations were halted when technical issues arose. Subsequent attempts were impeded by fresh cracks. A help centre is being established for the families of the trapped labourers. This hints that the rescue process may take more time.

Uttarakhand Chief Minister Pushkar Dhami assured close monitoring of the rescue operations, emphasising coordination with various agencies to overcome emerging challenges and ensure the safe extrication of the trapped individuals.

About The Author

The Tribune News Service brings you the latest news, analysis and insights from the region, India and around the world. Follow the Tribune News Service for a wide-ranging coverage of events as they unfold, with perspective and clarity.

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