Rescue operation for 41 workers trapped in Uttarakhand tunnel enters 14th day amid challenges

Uttarkashi tunnel rescue operation

New Delhi: The rescue operation for 41 workers trapped in a collapsed tunnel in Uttarakhand’s Uttarkashi district is still underway, facing multiple hurdles and delays. The workers have been stuck inside the under-construction Silkyara-Dandalgaon tunnel since November 12, when a part of the tunnel caved in due to a landslide.

The rescue team, comprising officials from the district administration, the National Highways and Infrastructure Development Corporation Limited (NHIDCL), the Border Roads Organisation (BRO), the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) and the State Disaster Response Force (SDRF), has been trying to reach the workers by drilling horizontally through the debris. However, the drilling work has been hampered by the presence of iron rods, girders, boulders, and loose soil in the debris. The rescue team has also faced technical glitches and damage to the drilling machines.

The workers, who are believed to be safe and alive, have been provided with oxygen, electricity, food, and water through pipes by creating pressure from a compressor. The rescue team has also established contact with the workers through a pipe and released a video of them on November 21. The workers were seen wearing helmets and talking to each other. The Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) and the Union Road Transport and Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari have been monitoring the rescue operation and have assured all possible assistance.

The following table summarizes the important incidents related to the accident and the rescue operation:

November 12A part of the tunnel collapsed due to a landslide, trapping 41 workers inside. Rescue work was started and oxygen, electricity, food and water were supplied to the workers through pipes.
November 13Contact was established with the workers through a pipe. Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami visited the site and reviewed the rescue work.
November 14An auger machine was brought to the site for horizontal drilling. Two rescue workers were injured by falling debris.
November 15A high-capacity American auger machine was ordered from Delhi to speed up the drilling work.
November 16The American auger machine was installed and started working.
November 17The machine drilled 22 meters and inserted four steel pipes. The machine hit something and got damaged. Another auger machine was called from Indore.
November 18Drilling work could not start due to the fear of debris falling. The PMO team decided to work on five plans.
November 19Gadkari reviewed the rescue operation and said horizontal drilling was the best option. He expressed hope of success in two to two and a half days.
November 20Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke to Dhami and took stock of the rescue work. He stressed on keeping the morale of the workers high. A six-inch diameter pipeline was inserted into the debris.
November 21The first video of the workers was released, showing them safe and alive. Two explosions were carried out at the Barkot end of the tunnel and drilling was started from the other side.
November 22The steel pipeline reached 45 meters deep into the debris and 12 meters remained to be penetrated. Drilling was disrupted due to iron rods and girders.
November 23The rescue operation was delayed by six hours due to a technical fault in the machine. The drilling work resumed and reached 47 meters deep into the debris. Nine meters remained to be penetrated.
November 24After removing the obstacles, drilling started again with an auger machine weighing 25 tonnes. But after some time, drilling stopped again due to iron rods coming in front.
First picture of 41 workers trapped