Uttarakhand tunnel collapse: Fresh debris creating hurdles; operation to rescue 40 workers enter Day-3
Dehradun, November 15: Rescue operations to free 40 labourers trapped in an under-construction tunnel in Uttarakhand for more than 70 hours faced a setback as a fresh landslide disrupted progress. The state disaster response force reported ongoing efforts to set up a new drilling machine to resume rescue operations.
Efforts to create a platform for the auger drilling machine were thwarted by a landslide on Tuesday night, leading rescue officials to dismantle the machine and restart platform construction. The drilling machine was intended to aid in establishing a passage for the trapped labourers, who have been stuck since the tunnel collapse on Sunday. Approximately 21 meters of the slab blocking the tunnel has been cleared, leaving a 19-meter passage to be addressed.
Earlier, optimism suggested the trapped laborers could be evacuated by Wednesday, according to Uttarkashi district Magistrate Abhishek Ruhela. However, recent visuals revealed the dismantling of the drilling machine and platform, indicating a delay in the rescue timeline.
Rescue teams are working to set up a new drilling machine, and videos from the site depict substantial concrete piles blocking the tunnel, with twisted metal bars complicating the rescue efforts. The trapped workers, primarily migrants from Bihar, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Odisha, Uttarakhand, and Himachal Pradesh, are reportedly safe and receiving essentials such as oxygen, water, food packets, and medicines through tubes.
The rescue plan involves inserting 800- and 900-millimeter diameter mild steel pipes sequentially into the rubble using drilling equipment to create an escape passage. The workers, who have a buffer of around 400 meters within the tunnel, have successfully established communication with rescue teams through Walkie-Talkies.
The evacuation strategy includes using eight 900-millimeter diameter pipes and five pipes of 800-millimeter diameter, each six meters in length, made of mild steel. The pipes will be inserted through the collapsed section of the tunnel, 270 meters from the entrance, using shotcreting to stabilize loose debris. A hydraulic jack will then be employed to force the pipes through the rubble.
An expert team of five engineers from the irrigation department is overseeing the insertion process of the mild steel pipes. Despite the challenges, contact with the trapped laborers has been maintained, with reports indicating that they are "doing well." The morale of the workers is boosted by the assurance of a significant rescue operation by various agencies to evacuate them. Family members have also received reassurance from trapped workers, further alleviating concerns about their well-being.
- With inputs from agencies