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Uttarkashi Tunnel Collapse: Families of Trapped Workers Anxious After Rescue Operation was Suspended

Newsclick Report |
The operation to rescue 40 labourers has been suspended since Friday when a US-made auger machine deployed to drill and push in pipes developed a snag.
Uttarkashi tunnel collapse

Uttarkashi: Rescue and relief operations underway after a portion of a tunnel under construction between Silkyara and Dandalgaon on the Brahmakhal-Yamunotri national highway collapsed, in Uttarkashi district, Saturday, Nov. 18, 2023. (PTI Photo)

Families of the workers trapped in the Silkyara tunnel in Uttarkashi are growing anxious as it was revealed that the drilling work to reach the workers is suspended at the moment. 

It has been six days since 40 workers were trapped after "a portion of the under-construction Silkyara tunnel caved in on November 12." 

The tunnel is a central government project being constructed under the National Highways & Infrastructure Development Corporation Limited. 

Abhay Kumar Singh, a relative of a worker named Deepak Kumar, said that nothing seems to be happening despite repeated assurances. 

“My nephew Deepak Kumar is trapped here. Today, we have been here for four days, and every day, we are assured that they will be taken out today. The machine has been closed since yesterday. When I talked to him yesterday evening, he said that everything was fine. There is some problem of urination though inside the tunnel,” Abhay Kumar Singh said.

The operation to rescue 40 labourers has been suspended since Friday when a US-made auger machine deployed to drill and push in pipes developed a snag.

Anshu Manish Khulko, director of NHIDCL, the tunnel-making company responsible for the Silkyara tunnel, confirmed that the drilling work to evacuate the workers is on hold for now. 

Another high-performance drilling machine airlifted from Indore in Madhya Pradesh has already landed at the Jolly Grant airport in Dehradun and is being transported by road to Silkyara, where it will be unloaded and assembled before being deployed for drilling, officials on the spot said.

By the time the operation was halted on Friday afternoon, the heavy-duty auger machine had drilled up to 24 metres through the rubble spread over a 60-metre area inside the tunnel.

Around 2.45 pm on Friday, during the positioning of the fifth pipe, a loud cracking sound was heard in the tunnel, after which the rescue operation was suspended, a statement issued by the NHIDCL late on Friday night said.

The sound created panic among the rescue team. An expert involved with the project warned about the possibility of further collapse in the vicinity. Subsequently, the pipe-pushing activity was stopped.

PMO Deputy Secretary Mangesh Ghildiyal is coming to Silkyara for an on-the-spot review of the rescue operations, officials said.

(With inputs from PTI.)

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