Uttarkashi: The fate of at least 40 laborers who are trapped inside a tunnel under construction in Uttarkashi, Uttarakhand, remains uncertain as the rescue operation has been halted for the last 32 hours due to a machine breakdown. The laborers have been stuck inside the Silkyara-Barkot Tunnel since November 11, when a portion of the tunnel collapsed due to a landslide.
The rescue workers have been trying to clear the debris and reach the trapped workers by using a boring machine. However, the machine stopped working after digging 22 meters of the tunnel. The rescue team is now waiting for a new boring machine, which is being brought from Indore. The machine arrived at Jolly Grant Airport on Friday night and is being transported to the site by three trucks. It is expected to reach the site by Saturday afternoon.
The officials have estimated that the trapped workers are about 60 meters inside the tunnel and another 30 to 35 meters of boring is required to evacuate them. The rescue operation, which entered the seventh day on Saturday, has so far removed 24 meters of debris from the tunnel.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi is closely monitoring the situation and has assured all possible assistance to the state government. The Chief Minister of Uttarakhand Pushkar Singh Dhami has said that the rescue operation is being carried out at a fast pace and the teams of central and state agencies are working with full strength to save the lives of the workers.
The National Highways and Infrastructure Development Corporation Limited (NHIDCL), which is executing the tunnel project, has said that the trapped workers are still physically and mentally healthy and are being provided with essential supplies like oxygen, medicines, food, and water through air-compressed pipes. The NHIDCL Director Anshu Manish Khalkho has said that the morale of the workers is being maintained and they are being counseled by psychological experts.
The relatives of the trapped workers are also being allowed to communicate with them through a pipe inside the tunnel. Two people from Uttar Pradesh have spoken to their kin who are among the stranded laborers. The relatives have expressed hope and prayed for the safe rescue of the workers.
The Silkyara-Barkot Tunnel is part of the Char Dham Highway Project, which aims to connect the four holy shrines of Uttarakhand – Badrinath, Kedarnath, Gangotri and Yamunotri. The tunnel is expected to reduce the travel distance and time between Dehradun and Yamunotri by 20 km and one hour respectively. The tunnel is 12 km long and has a diameter of 10.5 meters.