Uttarkashi (Uttarakhand) [India]: Union Minister of State of Road Transport and Highways VK Singh took stock of the operation on Thursday and said that the government and all its agencies are making all efforts to complete within two to three days to rescue 40 workers trapped inside the collapsed under-construction Silkyara tunnel in Uttarkashi.
‘Government, all its agencies and experts with whom we can communicate–the efforts of all of us are aimed at rescuing the workers at the earliest. I have spoken with them and their morale is high. They understand that all efforts are being made for them and we are weighing all options to rescue them,’ Singh told reporters in Uttarkashi.
The tunnel between Silkyara and Dandalgaon on the Brahmakhal-Yamunotri national highway collapsed in the early hours of November 12.
He further said that the labourers were confined in a small space of about 2 kilometres in the debris and they were sending in food and water and oxygen via a pipe to the trapped workers.
‘Our priority is to rescue them sooner. Efforts are being made for this. All the agencies are putting effort into this. A new machine is working, whose power and speed are better than the old machine. Our effort is to complete this rescue operation within two to three days.
We are also taking the help of international experts. They know that the government is working to rescue them,’ the minister said.
Earlier today, Uttarakhand Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi was reviewing the rescue operation to evacuate 40 workers.
‘We are in regular contact with the trapped. All the arrangements for them are being made there. Everyone is safe. Work was done by the NHIDCL and the tunnel was on the verge of completion. Just 400 metres were left… Now we will review it all… PM Modi is reviewing the rescue operation and is continuously in contact with all of us,’ Dhami told media.
The Chief Minister this morning also held a review meeting with senior officials at the state secretariat.
Colonel Deepak Patil, who is leading the rescue efforts of the National Highways & Infrastructure Development Corporation Limited (NHIDCL), said, ‘Union Minister (General VK Singh (Retd) was here and he talked to the labourers. He assured them, and those labourers responded and they liked it.’
He said that drilling work has resumed and rescue operations are now moving at a fast pace. ‘The machine has drilled around 3 metres in half an hour but we cannot give you an exact time as speed could further increase or decrease.’
Colonel Patil said that they have considered a third option for which ‘equipment and machinery are already on wheels.’
However, he was optimistic that there was a high chance of the success of Plan B.
Detailing the drilling process further, Colonel Patil said they were using the New Austrian Tunnelling Method (NATM), which combines a drill and blast technique.
‘The primary thought process behind this method is to monitor the deformations as you go in. More deformations, more caution, use more rock bolts and use more primary support,’ he said.
A portion of the tunnel that is being constructed between Silkyara and Dandalgaon on the Brahmakhal-Yamunotri National Highway collapsed in the early hours of Sunday following a landslide, trapping 40 workers inside.