Uttarkashi tunnel collapse: Global expert at site, happy with ‘extraordinary’ efforts
Arnold Dix, who heads the Geneva-based International Tunnelling and Underground Space Association, has expressed hope that the workers will be evacuated safely
An international tunnelling expert has arrived at the Uttarkashi tunnel collapse site to review the rescue efforts, which entered the ninth day on Monday (November 20).
Arnold Dix, who heads the Geneva-based International Tunneling and Underground Space Association, has expressed hope that the trapped workers will be evacuated safely. He has also expressed satisfaction at the rescue efforts made so far, saying an “enormous amount of work” has been done.
“We are doing a lot of work at the moment to make sure what we do is safe and the people doing the evacuation are safe. I have just been down in the tunnel, enormous amount of work has been done there in preparation, and we are just coming up here at the top of the mountain to consider other options as well,” Dix said.
“I only arrived yesterday [November 19] but the work I have seen even between yesterday and today is extraordinary... Plan for today is working out the best thing to do to get the men out,” he said.
Dix, however, did not spell out a timeline as to how long the rescue operation would last. “We are trying to make sure all men are safe, they get out alive, and the rescuers are safe. As for how long it takes, everyone here agrees we want the men out safe and the rescue safe as long as it takes,” he said.
PM Modi rings CM Dhami
Rescue operations are being carried out since November 12, when portions of the Silkyara end of the tunnel, which is part of the Char Dham all-weather road, collapsed following a landslide, leaving 41 workers trapped behind a huge mound of debris.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke with Uttarakhand Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami again on Monday to take stock of the rescue operation and stressed on the need to keep their morale up.
According to a statement issued by the Uttarakhand Chief Minister’s Office, PM Modi said necessary rescue equipment and resources are being provided by the Centre, and the trapped workers will be safely evacuated through mutual coordination between central and state agencies.
Medical teams are also stationed at the site, and a team from the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) is also keeping an eye on the operations after visiting the tunnel for an on-the-spot review, the state government’s statement added.
It was for the third time that PM Modi spoke to CM Dhami about the rescue operations being carried out at the tunnel. CM Dhami briefed PM Modi about the rescue operations in detail and said all the trapped workers are safe with oxygen, nutritious food and water being constantly supplied to them.
Help for workers’ families
CM Dhami said on Monday that the Uttarakhand government will bear the travel, food, and lodging expenses of the relatives of the 41 trapped workers.
Assuring the families of the trapped workers that they will be rescued soon, the chief minister said officials have been asked to stay in touch with the relatives of the trapped workers so that they do not face any inconvenience.
All agencies are working in full coordination with each other in consultation with experts to carry out the rescue operations, he said, adding that he had inspected the site and was constantly monitoring the rescue operation.
Psychiatrists have also been roped in to maintain the morale of the trapped workers, he said.
The Silkyara tunnel is about 30 km away from the district headquarters of Uttarkashi and a seven-hour drive from Dehradun.
(With agency inputs)