Uttarkashi: A multi-agency rescue operation is underway to save 41 workers who have been trapped in a tunnel under construction in Uttarakhand for the last 14 days. The tunnel, which is part of the Chardham Yatra route, collapsed on November 12 due to a landslide. Since then, various agencies have been trying to clear the debris and reach the workers, who are receiving food, water, and medicines through pipes. here we look at the challenges and the progress of the rescue operation.
Plasma cutter machine to remove the stuck auger machine
One of the main obstacles in the rescue operation was the American Auger machine, which was being used to drill through the debris. The blades of the machine got stuck in the debris on Friday night, and the parts of the machine broke and blocked the way to the workers.
To remove the machine, a new plasma cutter machine has been airlifted from Hyderabad to Uttarkashi. The plasma cutter machine can cut through metal and concrete with high precision and speed. If the auger machine is taken out by these cutters by evening, then the work of making the rescue route can be completed in the next 12-14 hours.
Hand drilling and pipe laying to evacuate workers
Another option for the rescue operation is to hand drill into the remaining 10 or 12 meters of debris and lay pipes to create a passage for the workers. A unit of ‘Madras Sappers’, a group of ‘Corps of Engineers’ of the Indian Army, reached the spot on Sunday to assist in this task.
The 20 soldiers included in this unit will, with the help of local people, make a further path to evacuate the workers from the tunnel. According to the information received, after digging the path with hands and tools like hammer and chisel, soil will be taken out and then the pipe will be pushed forward from the platform of the auger machine itself.
Vertical drilling option ruled out
The officials are also considering a third option of drilling 86 meters below the top of the tunnel and creating a vertical shaft to reach the workers. However, this option is very risky and unlikely to be implemented.
According to experts, at present all 41 people are comfortable inside the tunnel. All essential items like food and water are being provided to them. In such a situation, if vertical drilling is done, there is a possibility that the pipe may break due to the pressure and debris created above the tunnel. Therefore, the equipment for vertical drilling has been moved up, but this will not happen.