Last Updated: November 18, 2023, 23:54 IST
Officials on Saturday began preparations to drill a vertical hole from the top of the hill under which over 40 construction workers have been trapped with limited food and communication resources for the past seven days after a tunnel collapsed on Uttrakhand’s Char Dham route.
The officials spearheading the rescue operations for a week are expecting Border Roads Organisations (BRO) road to create an alternative route to the under-construction Silkyara tunnel.
The alternate would reportedly be ready by Sunday afternoon and the rescue mission that had been stalled since Friday will resume. The auger machine deployed to drill and push pipes through the rubble witnessed a snag bringing the rescue operation to an unexpected halt.
Meanwhile, work is underway to assemble the new high-performance drilling machine, which was airlifted to the site from Indore in Madhya Pradesh and reached the accident site on Saturday. Officials said three parts will be assembled before it is deployed for drilling.
Bhaskar, former advisor to the prime minister and now OSD in the Uttarakhand government, said in Silkyara that concerted efforts would produce good results in four to five days.
“But if the gods are kind enough, it could happen even earlier than that,” he said.
A team of officials from the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) and experts at the site also decided to work simultaneously on five plans to rescue the 41 men.
“The experts were one in their view that rather than working on just one plan we should work at the same time on five plans to reach the trapped workers as early as possible,” Khulbe said at a press conference.
Uttarakhand Tunnel Collapse: Rescue Plan In The Coming Week
According to Khulbe, the plan by the expert team includes drilling from one end to the other on both Silkyara and Barkot sides, vertical drilling from the top of the tunnel and perpendicular drilling.
He said that efforts are also being made to build a platform to start vertical drilling through the top of the tunnel and operations in this direction have already begun.
“We are trying to make a vertical track from the top of the tunnel. A point at the top of the tunnel has been identified from where drilling will start soon,” he told PTI.
“This track is about 1,000-1,100 metres long. Simultaneously, we are also surveying to know how much time it will take. As per our calculations, the track should be ready by tomorrow afternoon,” BRO’s Major Naman Narula told reporters.
Silkyara Tunnel Collapse
The Silkyara tunnel, located on the Char Dham route, collapsed around 5.30 am last Sunday. The rescue operations had been on since then but had to be suspended on Friday afternoon when a US-made auger machine deployed to drill and push in pipes through the rubble to prepare an escape passage for the workers developed a snag.
The Union government also held a high-level meeting on Saturday where the five options to rescue the workers were discussed with different agencies assigned with specific alternatives to work on, sources said.
NHIDCL MD Mahmood Ahmed has been made in charge of coordination with all the central agencies and has been stationed in Silkyara, sources said. Four machines have been put to work right now and four more are arriving, he added.
Over 40 Workers Trapped Since Sunday
The number of workers inside has been revised from 40 to 41. The NHIDCL, which is constructing the tunnel through Navayuga Engineering Company Ltd, came to know about this discrepancy on Friday.
Deepak Kumar from Muzaffarpur district in Bihar was identified as the 41st person to be stuck in the tunnel.
(With PTI inputs)