New Delhi, November 19
If the drilling machine continues to work smoothly, the 41 workers trapped inside the partially collapsed Silkyara tunnel in Uttarakhand could be rescued within the next two days, said Union Minister for Road Transport and Highways Nitin Gadkari as he took stock of the ground situation on Sunday.
“The rescue operation is challenging, but every possible method is being tried for speedy evacuation. Experts are considering alternative methods, including vertical drilling,” said Gadkari, adding that if the auger machine worked effectively, rescuers could reach the victims within the next two days.
Accompanied by Uttarakhand Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami, the Union minister said the rescue operation was tough as the soil strata in the Himalayan region was not uniform.
The rescue operation is challenging; every possible method is being tried for evacuation. Other steps such as vertical drilling are also being mulled. —Nitin Gadkari, Union minister
While emphasising exploration of various options, Gadkari acknowledged that horizontal drilling by the US-made auger machine, which had successfully inserted pipes up to a distance of 22 metre, remained the most viable method. Prioritising the safety of the workers, Gadkari said the ongoing efforts included insertion of another pipe to provide food and other essential facilities to the trapped workers. Responding to inquiries about potential lapses by the construction company in failing to create an escape tunnel for emergency, Gadkari urged caution against premature conclusions.
Assuring a thorough investigation into all aspects of the incident, he said it was a natural calamity..
Explaining the suspension of rescue operations on Friday, Gadkari clarified that while the drilling machine was functioning properly, it encountered some hard objects, creating vibrations. “To prevent the risk of further collapse, the operation was halted,” he said.
While the insertion of 900 mm pipes through the debris remains the primary solution, rescue teams are exploring other options, which have been assigned to five agencies.
The National Highways and Infrastructure Development Corporation Limited (NHIDCL) is laying a six-inch pipeline for food, while the Rail Vikas Nigam Limited has started working on a vertical pipeline for supply of essential items.
The NHIDCL will continue to drill from the Silkyara end after making necessary safety arrangements.
The Tehri Hydro Development Corporation will start work on micro-tunnelling from the Barkot end for which heavy machinery has been mobilised.
The Sutlej Jal Vidyut Nigam will do the vertical drilling to rescue the trapped labourers for which equipment has been brought from Gujarat and Odisha. The ONGC has started initial work on vertical drilling from the Barkot end.
Multivitamins, dry fruits being supplied
The government is sending multivitamins, antidepressants and dry fruits to 41 workers trapped in the tunnel, said Anurag Jain, Road, Transport and Highways Secretary, on Sunday. PTI
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