Rescuers at the Silkyara tunnel in Uttarkashi of Uttarakhand are confident of pulling out all 41 workers safely but are shy of setting a deadline given the sensitivity of the terrain and challenges in drilling an exit path. Lt Gen Syed Ata Hasnain, a member of NDMA (National Disaster Management Authority) told reporters that the officials are working on a fresh five-point rescue plan and the focus is on the horizontal drilling to create a shaft for pulling out the workers.
“This is not an easy challenge, so we are exploring every option. All the teams are working on it, that is the only assurance I can give. Can’t establish the timeframe,” said Lt Gen Hasnain.
A tunnel-boring machine is currently in operation at the forefront. Additionally, efforts are being made to utilize blasting techniques to widen the tunnel entrance for inserting a micro-boring machine. The primary emphasis, as emphasized, remains on prioritizing “saving lives” at this moment. The officials said that there was sufficient water and oxygen inside and the visuals from inside showed that there was ample space inside.
Additional Secretary Technical, Road and Transport Mahmood Ahmed said, “We have gathered multiple agencies. We are coordinating with them. Each agency has been assigned a specific task…We are taking all possible contributions from the army, BRO and other agencies. The district administration is cooperating with us. NDRF and SDRF are also working.”
The officials said that there is approximately 2 km of space where the workers are trapped and electricity is also available. “A 4-inch pipe was available which didn’t get destroyed so we had a lifeline,” they said.
A group of men has become trapped following the November 12 collapse of a section of the 4.5-kilometre tunnel along the Brahmakhal-Yamunotri National Highway. This tunnel, intended to connect Silkyara and Dandalgaon in Uttarkashi, constitutes a segment of the Char Dham project.
The workers, fortunate to have escaped without injuries, currently reside within a 400-meter safety zone situated behind a substantial 200-meter stretch of rocky debris. To support them, supplies of food and water are being delivered through a pipeline.