Uttarkashi tunnel collapse Rescuers on Monday, November 20, successfully forced a six-inch-wide conduit through the debris at the site of the collapsed Silkyara tunnel in Uttarkashi, offering a glimmer of hope to the 41 workers who had been trapped for eight days.
The “first breakthrough” at the location, according to Anshu Manish Khalkho, director of National Highways and Infrastructure Development Corporation Limited (NHIDCL), was made. “The pipe has been sent 53 meters across the rubble, so the trapped workers can hear and see us,” he explained.
In addition to planning to dig more than 80 meters into the hill to reach the workers, rescuers are also practicing using drones and robots from the Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO) to investigate new avenues for rescue. For the Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) to deploy heavy drilling equipment, a road has been constructed to the summit.
What has happened so far?
On November 12, 2023, a portion of the Silkyara Bend—Barkot tunnel, which was still under construction, collapsed in Uttarakhand, trapping 41 people. About 200 meters separate the collapsed part from the tunnel’s entrance.
Under NHIDCL, Navayuga Engineering Construction Limited (NECL) is building the Char Dham all-weather road project, which includes the tunnel. By bringing Yamunotri online in all weather conditions, the project hopes to speed up travel times and encourage regional growth.
Numerous authorities, including the police, the State Disaster Response Force (SDRF), and the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), were called upon to respond to the event immediately. In addition, a six-person expert group was established to look into the reason for the collapse.
Using drills and excavators, nearly 200 disaster relief workers started rescue operations right away. The idea was to force steel pipes, each 80 centimeters in diameter, through a hole created by the removed earth. On the Silkyara side of the tunnel, the trash accumulation stretch starts 270 meters from the tunnel opening.
Rescuers had drilled 24 meters through the debris on November 17. To establish an escape route, they had to drill up to 60 meters to place pipes with diameters of 800 and 900 mm one after the other. But there was a setback when the drilling augur equipment broke, necessitating the employment of a replacement apparatus. The Indian Air Force used its C-17 transport planes to transfer about 22 tonnes of vital equipment from Indore to Dehradun. The previous Auger machine was swapped out with a new American model that could drill up to five meters (16 feet) per hour and had a 99-centimeter (3.2-foot) diameter pipe for clearing trash.
The administration convened a high-level conference on November 18 to talk about possible rescue measures. Based on technical advice, five agencies were allocated specialized tasks: Sutluj Jal Vidyut Nigam (SJVNL), Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC), Rail Vikas Nigam Limited (RVNL), NHIDCL, and Tehri Hydro Development Corporation Limited (THDCL). Five solutions were ultimately chosen. In order to get to the trapped miners, the rescue team had been boring horizontally through the wreckage of the collapsed tunnel. However, after the augur machine malfunctioned, a new strategy was developed that called for drilling vertically from the top of the mountain.
Drilling was once more stopped on Sunday, November 19, though, as Union Road Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari stated that it seemed like the best option to drill horizontally through the debris using the massive auger machine. To get to the workers stuck inside the tunnel that was still under construction, officials created a number of different ideas.
Rescuers pushed through a fresh pipeline on Monday to bring food to the stranded workers as the activities resumed. In addition to drilling horizontally, rescuers devised five other strategies to extract the workers, one of which involved drilling vertically from the summit of the mountain.
The states from which the 41 trapped workers are from are Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand, Bihar, Odisha, Himachal Pradesh, West Bengal, Assam, and Uttarakhand.
Government representatives from Jharkhand and Odisha went to the accident. Arnold Dix, a global tunneling specialist, also arrived at the scene of the accident to assess the rescue operations. The International Tunnelling and Underground Space Association is led by him and is situated in Geneva.
The pipeline project was announced on the same day that Uttarakhand Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami was called by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to assess the status of the rescue effort. The PM said in a statement that it was essential to maintain the captive workers’ morale.
The Prime Minister stated in a statement released by the Chief Minister’s Office that the Center is providing the required tools and resources and that the workers who are trapped would be safely evacuated through mutual cooperation.
CM Dhami announced on Monday that the Uttarakhand government would cover the relatives of the trapped workers’ travel, accommodation, and food costs. According to him, psychiatrists have been brought in to help the stranded workers and their families be positive.