Uttarkashi: A massive landslide occurred in Uttarkashi district of Uttarakhand on Sunday morning, blocking an under-construction tunnel and trapping 36 workers inside. The tunnel is part of the Char Dham Road Project, which aims to provide all-weather connectivity to the four holy shrines of Yamunotri, Gangotri, Kedarnath, and Badrinath.
The incident took place around 5 am when the workers were working at a distance of 2800 meters from the entrance of the tunnel towards Silkyara. The landslide occurred at a distance of 200 meters from the entrance, creating a huge pile of debris and rocks that obstructed the exit.
As soon as the information reached the authorities, a rescue operation was launched by the Uttarkashi Superintendent of Police Arpan Yaduvanshi, who reached the spot and took charge of the situation. Teams of police, National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), State Disaster Response Force (SDRF), fire brigade, emergency 108, and National Highways and Infrastructure Development Corporation Limited (NHIDCL), the organization that is constructing the tunnel, are working around the clock to clear the debris and open the tunnel.
According to the officials, oxygen cylinders are available for the workers inside the tunnel and an additional oxygen pipe has also been delivered inside. All the workers are safe and in contact with the rescue teams through a wireless communication system. The rescue operation is expected to take some more time, as the debris is hard and heavy.
This is not the first time that workers have been trapped inside a tunnel in Uttarakhand. In August this year, around 114 workers were trapped inside a tunnel called ‘Edit-II’ of the Rishikesh-Karnprayag rail line project when it was filled with water from a flood stream in the Shivpuri area. However, they were rescued safely by a police team that pumped out the water and used ropes to pull them out.
Uttarakhand has witnessed heavy rainfall and landslides during this monsoon season, causing loss of lives and damage to infrastructure. The state government has issued several advisories and warnings to the public and the pilgrims visiting the Char Dham shrines to avoid any untoward incidents. The construction of the Char Dham Road Project, which was inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2016, has also faced several challenges and controversies due to environmental and legal issues. The project is expected to reduce the travel time and distance to the four shrines by building wider roads, bridges, and tunnels. Once completed, the journey from Uttarkashi to Yamunotri Dham will be reduced by 26 kilometers.