All workers trapped inside Uttarakhand’s Silkyara tunnel were safely rescued on Tuesday evening as agencies made the big breakthrough on the 17th day of one of most challenging rescue missions.
Multiple agencies from state and central governments have been working day and night since November 12 when a part of an under-construction tunnel in Uttarkashi connecting Silkyara to Dandalgaon collapsed, trapping 41 workers inside.
Rescue workers broke through the 60-metre stretch of rubble in the Silkyara tunnel in Uttarakhand on Tuesday noon using rat-hole mining technique.
Following the collapse, rescue efforts were soon launched by the district administration and arrangements were made made to supply oxygen, electricity and eatables to the trapped labourers through air-compressed pipes.
Various agencies including the NDRF, State Disaster Response Force (SDRF), Border Roads Organisation (BRO), project executing agency NHIDCL and Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) joined the rescue efforts aiming to safely evacuate the trapped workers.
International tunnelling expert Arnold Dix also reached the tunnel collapse site to conduct a review on the rescue operation.
After more than two weeks of the multi-agency rescue mission, officials focussed on two alternatives — manual drilling through the remaining 10- or 12-metre stretch of the rubble or, more likely, drilling down 86 metres from above.
The horizontal drilling was being carried out by a huge auger machine but that failed after the machine got stuck in the rubble leading officials to focus on an alternative option, which was to drill down from above the tunnel.
The rescuers also began vertical drilling on Sunday afternoon after the auger machine failed to make any headways.
Two teams of seven and five men who are experts in the technique of rat-hole mining were called in by two private companies involved in the rescue operation. The miners were divided into multiple teams, where each team responsible for going into the steel chute laid into the escape passage for brief periods.
On Tuesday morning, the Chief Minister’s office released a statement saying that a total of 52 meters of pipe was pushed till then and if there is no major hindrance, all the workers will be evacuated soon. The CM further clarified that the health of all the workers trapped inside is safe
Prime Minister Narendra Modi inquired from Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami on Tuesday about the well-being of the workers trapped in the tunnel. He said that along with the safety of the workers trapped inside, special care should also be taken for the safety of the people engaged in relief work outside. The PM added that the families of the workers trapped inside should not face any kind of problem.