Silkyara tunnel collapse: Army steps in for rescue ops as vertical drilling begins
A complete disengagement of the machine is necessary for the officials to resume the rescue work which involves manual pushing of pipes through rubble to prepare an escape passage
Almost a fortnight after the Silkyara tunnel collapse in Uttarakhand, the Indian Army has stepped in for the rescue operation even as a plasma cutter was flown in from Hyderabad on Sunday (November 26) to cut and remove parts of the auger machine stuck in the rubble inside the tunnel where 41 labourers have been trapped.
A unit of Madras Sappers, an engineer group of the Corps of Engineers of the Indian Army, arrived at the site on Sunday to assist in the rescue operations.
Uttarakhand Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami said that the plasma machine had started working on Sunday morning, cutting the blade from the auger machine from where it is stuck in an obstruction in the collapsed tunnel. Speaking to news agency ANI, he added that cutting was going on “rapidly” and only 14 m of the 32 m that was stuck is left to be cut now. “The auger machine has to be cut and brought out. It seems that it will be completed soon, within a few more hours. After that manual drilling will begin,” he said.
A complete disengagement of the machine is necessary for the officials to resume the rescue work which involves manual pushing of pipes through rubble to prepare an escape passage. A part of a drill machine has also been sent atop the hill, above the tunnel, for vertical drilling.
Blades of the auger machine drilling through the rubble of the collapsed tunnel had got stuck in the debris Friday night, forcing officials to consider switching to other options that could drag the rescue operation by several days, or even weeks.
On day 14 of the multi-agency rescue mission, officials shifted focus to two alternatives -- manual drilling through the remaining 10 or 12-metre stretch of the rubble or, more likely, drilling down 86 metres from above. However, the authorities clarified that the manual drilling option is being explored as the last resort because it will take over 18 hours to cut through 10-15 meters of the tunnel.
The rescue effort began on November 12 when a portion of the under-construction tunnel on Uttarakhand’s Char Dham route collapsed following a landslide, cutting off the exit for the workers inside. The workers are in a built-up two-km stretch of the tunnel. They are being sent food, medicines and other essentials through the six-inch wide pipe.
(With inputs from agencies)