India tunnel collapse: Rescue operation in final stage, says minister

World Friday 24/November/2023 16:10 PM
India tunnel collapse: Rescue operation in final stage, says minister
file photo (ANI)

Haridwar (Uttarakhand) [India]: Uttarakhand Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami on Friday said that the rescue operation to extricate 41 workers trapped in a portion of the Silkyara tunnel in Uttarkashi, which collapsed over a week ago, is "in its final stage," adding that both the central and state government agencies are working together.

CM Dhami said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi is taking all the updates regarding the rescue operation being carried out at the Silkyara tunnel.

"The rescue operation is in its last stage. PM Modi is taking all the updates about the difficulties that workers might face and discussing the solutions. Both the central and state government agencies are working together for the rescue operation. We hope that soon this operation will be completed and all the workers will come out," CM Dhami said.

Earlier in the day, Additional Secretary Technical, Road and Transport Mahmood Ahmed said that the auger drilling machine, which developed some cracks on Thursday, has been reassembled and they hope to push the pipe further this time with no obstacles.

"The auger drilling machine has been reassembled. A new pipe will be put in after the welding, which will take two hours. After two hours, we will push the pipe inside the tunnel. We hope that we push the pipe further this time and will face no obstacles," Additional Secretary Ahmed said.

Meanwhile, the Uttarakhand government said that the auger machine had to be disassembled due to steel pipes coming in front of it and the pipe being inserted inside getting bent. Due to this, the auger machine was damaged, but it has been repaired.

The rescue work continues as a portion of the under-construction tunnel from Silkyara to Barkot collapsed on November 12. The debris falling in the 60-metre stretch on the Silkyara side of the tunnel trapped 41 labourers inside.

When asked about the total length of the pipe that has been inserted to rescue the workers, Additional Secretary Ahmed said that two more pipes of 6 metres each have to be inserted to get a breakthrough.

"Two more pipes of 6 metres each have to be inserted. The first 6 metres, which reach 51-52 metres, with the next 6 meter-long pipe, we hope to breakthrough," he said.

"This is our own estimation and understanding. These estimations are based on certain realities but they are all assumptions and not to be taken exactly, but we hope to be there someway," he added.

Earlier, Bhaskar Khulbe, a former advisor to the Prime Minister's Office (PMO), said a 2-metre part of the inserted pipe had to be cut off as it got compressed due to friction while drilling. This happened after the auger heavy-duty driller encountered an obstruction and exerted more pressure on Thursday, he informed.

Speaking to ANI on Friday morning, Khulbe said the platform on which the Augur drilling machine was mounted developed some cracks on Thursday. However, the cracks have been repaired since informed.

The platform developed some cracks while the rescue operation was underway on Thursday and the process of horizontal drilling through the debris had to be halted as a result.

"Last night, we had to revamp the platform on which the machine is mounted. However, Parsons Company operated a ground penetration radar, which told us that there was no metallic obstruction for the next 5 metres (inside the tunnel). This means that our drilling, once it resumes, should be smooth. When we were removing the debris, we came upon two mangled pipes," Khulbe said, adding that the trapped workers may be extricated by Friday.

The workers are trapped in a 2 km-built portion, which is complete, including concrete work that provides them safety.