A fresh landslide on Tuesday obstructed ongoing efforts to insert steel pipes through the rubble of the collapsed tunnel to save 40 trapped laborers, who have been under the debris for two days.
Later, a group of workers stationed at the site launched a protest against the authorities due to delayed rescue work. These workers clashed with rescue teams present at the site and continued to chant slogans, saying, “humare aadmi nikalo…”
The falling debris caused injuries to two rescue workers, prompting their immediate transfer to the makeshift hospital established at the site.
Even though the drilling process started at 10pm on Tuesday, however, the auger machine utilized initially failed to achieve the desired outcomes as it lacked the capability to navigate through the debris-laden terrain.
To cut through the debris, an alternative machine, the American Auger, was requisitioned from Delhi. This advanced machinery boasts superior capabilities and is capable of drilling at a speed of 5 meters per hour.
The American auger arrived in Uttarkashi around noon. An Indian Air Force C-130 Hercules aircraft landed with the machine located approximately 30-35 kilometers away from the incident site.
Subsequently, the machinery was loaded on trucks and transported to the designated location.
Disaster Management Secretary Ranjit Kumar Sinha earlier said the authorities had set a target of rescuing the trapped labourers by Tuesday night or Wednesday. Navyuga Engineering Company Limited official GL Nath appealed to everyone not to enter the tunnel and disrupt the rescue efforts.
“Only those whose services or help is needed in the ongoing rescue operations should enter the tunnel. Local political leaders are disturbing us a lot by frequenting the tunnel. I appeal to them not to do so. Our priority is to safely evacuate the trapped workers,” he said. An expert team of five engineers from the irrigation department is on the spot to oversee the insertion process of the mild steel pipes through the rubble, the State Emergency Operation Centre said.
A team of 160 rescuers from the National Disaster Response Force, State Disaster Response Force, Indo-Tibetan Border Police, Border Roads Organisation, Rapid Action Force and the health department have been on the spot since Sunday, working to reach the trapped workers.
Contact is being maintained with the trapped labourers and the assurance that a huge rescue operation is being carried out by various agencies to evacuate them has also boosted their morale, National Highways & Infrastructure Development Corporation Limited (NHIDCL) Executive Director Col (Retd) Sandip Sudehra said.