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27/11/23 | 10:57 am

Operation continues to rescue 41 workers trapped in Silkyara tunnel

Meanwhile, the blade of the auger machine stuck in the 800 mm pipe is being cut with plasma and laser cutters procured from Hyderabad. union Home Secretary Ajay Kumar Bhalla is likely to reach here on Monday. After removing the machine debris from the pipe, manual digging will also be started.

Mahmood Ahmed, managing director of National Highways and Infrastructure Development Corporation Limited, told reporters in Silkyara that 24 meters of vertical drilling has been done so far. A total of 86 meters of digging has to be done. More teams have been called to speed up the work from the upper and other ends of the tunnel. A team of ONGC has arrived from Rajahmundry, Andhra Pradesh.

A unit of the Madras Sappers, a group of the Engineering Corps of the Indian Army, reached Silkyara on Sunday to help in the rescue operation. There are 30 military personnel in it. These military personnel, along with civilians, will dig out the debris inside the tunnel with hands, hammer and chisel. Then the pipe will be pushed forward from the platform built inside it. The Air Force is also engaged in helping. The Air Force has sent equipment from the Defense Research and Development Organisation.

The work to reach the laborers through four routes has been started from Sunday. BSNL bell rang for the first time yesterday near the workers in the tunnel. Along with providing its line through six-inch pipe, BSNL has also provided a landline phone.

International tunnel expert Arnold Dix, who was involved in the rescue operation, has said that the tunnel collapse is an unusual incident. This should be investigated. The area that collapsed had never collapsed before. Nodal officer Dr. Neeraj Khairwal says that there is a plan to start digging by hand today. Amidst all this, the Indian Meteorological Department has issued an orange alert for rain in Uttarakhand today. If it rains, the rescue operation may be hampered.

It is noteworthy that the blades of the auger machine drilling into the tunnel debris got stuck in the debris on Friday night, forcing the authorities to consider other options. A part of the tunnel being built on the Chardham Yatra route had collapsed on November 12. During this period, 41 workers were trapped. Since then, various agencies have been carrying out rescue operations on a war footing to get them out.

 (HS)

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