New Delhi: In a dramatic turn of events, heavy-duty auger drilling machines have arrived at the Chinyalisaur helipad in Uttarkashi, marking a significant step in the rescue operation of 40 labourers trapped inside a collapsed tunnel. The machines are being assembled and drilling work is expected to commence shortly, according to officials. Anshu Manish Khalko, Director of the National Highway & Infrastructure Development Corporation Limited (NHIDCL), revealed that the Indian Air Force has airlifted a state-of-the-art machine from Delhi to expedite the rescue mission.
“In the next few hours, we will be able to install the machine and resume the rescue work,” Khalko assured. However, the situation remains tense as protests erupted outside the Silkyara-Barkot tunnel over the delay in the rescue operation. The workers are trapped inside the under-construction tunnel since its collapse on Sunday.
Despite the ongoing relief and rescue operation, the falling debris from the tunnel’s roof is posing a significant challenge. The rescuers had prepared a platform for the auger drilling machine to insert large-diameter steel pipes into the debris-filled tunnel, aiming to create a passage for the safe evacuation of the labourers.
Uttarakhand’s Director General of Police (DGP), Ashok Kumar, confirmed that the relief and rescue work is proceeding on war footing, with the drilling work being carried out using the auger drilling machine. “Due to natural obstacles, the speed of drilling is slow,” DGP Kumar admitted. He expressed optimism about safely evacuating all the workers with the help of the heavy auger drilling machine brought in by the central agencies and the Air Force.
In a heartening development, District Magistrate Abhishek Ruhela and Dr Prem Pokhriyal, a senior doctor from the District Hospital, managed to communicate with the trapped workers through a pipe. The officials reassured the anxious family members of the trapped workers who had gathered at the site.
The rescue operation is being led by a team of technical experts and engineers who are preparing to start the process of pipe pushing. This involves installing a 900 mm pipe inside the tunnel to help the trapped workers come out. Officials confirmed that the workers are safe and are being provided with oxygen, water, food packets, and medicines through tubes.
Deepak Malik, GM of Uttarakhand Drinking Water Corporation and an expert in drilling and boring, is leading the technical aspect and drilling process of this campaign. “The process will start soon,” he said.
The incident occurred in the early hours of Sunday when a portion of the tunnel being constructed between Silkyara and Dandalgaon on the Brahmakhal-Yamunotri National Highway collapsed following a landslide, trapping 40 labourers inside.