Unable to rescue 41 labourers trapped inside a tunnel for more than a week, the agencies involved in the operation are working on an alternative plan. This one involves tunnelling sideways and boring from the top to build a vertical shaft.
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The Centre has devised a five-option action plan that involve drilling from three sides to access the trapped workers. Five different agencies have been tasked with carrying out each operation.
Two tunnels will be drilled horizontally from the right and left sides of the main tunnel, while a vertical shaft will be drilled from the top of the tunnel. The workers have been trapped in a 400-metre buffer zone of the unfinished main tunnel since November 12.
The big challenge is finding space for the multiple drilling machines needed in the hilly terrain and the time-consuming job of building motorable roads, which has started.
Currently, a single machine is operating in the area, clearing the way for a heavier machine. Workers are also building a ramp from the main tunnel’s entrance to its roof to transport the heavier machine.
This morning, a wider pipe was brought and is currently being installed. This will allow rescuers to deliver a wider variety of food and medicine to the trapped people. Earlier, only dry fruits could be sent in. With the new pipe, the authorities will be able to provide more substantial meals.
Today, an international tunnelling expert team arrived ta the spot. International Tunnelling and Underground Space Association president Arnold Dix is overseeing the operations. A robotics team from defence research organization DRDO has also reached.
Over the last week, several plans to cut through the 40-meter rock wall fell through. It had also backfired twice, bringing down more rocks and rubble from the unplastered roof, extending the depth of the rock wall from around 40 to over 70 meters.
The last rock-fall took place on Friday, when attempts were made to use an American Auger drill flown in from Delhi. The drill machine that was being used before that, had broken down and work had to be stopped till the new one reached.
Initially the plan was to cut through the rock wall and insert a pipe with a width of around 3 feet through which the people could be evacuated. But after repeated rockfalls, the authorities decided on a radically different approach.
On November 12, a portion of the 4.5-km tunnel on the Brahmakhal-Yamunotri National Highway has collapsed, trapping 41 workers. The tunnel — meant to join Silkyara and Dandalgaon in Uttarkashi — is part of the Char Dham project.