Uttarkashi: On November 12, 2023, a part of the Silkyara tunnel, which is being constructed on the Chardham Yatra route in Uttarkashi district of Uttarakhand, collapsed due to a landslide. The collapse occurred around 200 meters from the entrance of the tunnel, trapping 41 construction workers inside. Since then, various agencies have been trying to clear the debris and reach the workers, who are receiving food, water, and medicines through pipes.
Challenges and progress of the rescue operation
The rescue operation has faced several challenges and delays due to the nature and volume of the debris, the breakdown of the machines, and the weather conditions. The main obstacle 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 November 19, and the parts of the machine broke and blocked the way to the workers.
To remove the machine, a plasma cutter machine, and a laser cutter machine have been used to cut through the metal and concrete. However, this process has been slow and difficult, as the debris is unstable and unpredictable. The rescuers have also tried to drill horizontally into the remaining 10 or 12 meters of debris, but this option has also been hampered by the presence of the auger machine.
The alternative option of vertical drilling
As a result of the difficulties faced in the horizontal approach, the rescuers have decided to try an alternative option of vertical drilling. This option involves drilling a vertical shaft from the top of the hill above the tunnel and creating a passage for the workers. A team of geologists and engineers have identified the location for the vertical drilling, and a road has been constructed to transport the drilling equipment to the site.
The vertical drilling started on November 26, and a 15-meter portion has been drilled on the first day. The officials have estimated that it will take 100 hours to reach the trapped workers through this route if there are no hindrances. The vertical drilling is being done by a high-performance drilling machine, which can drill up to 86 meters below the surface.
Hopes and prayers for the safe return of the workers
The families and friends of the trapped workers have been waiting anxiously for their safe return, and have been praying for their well-being. The officials have assured them that they are doing their best to rescue them as soon as possible. The workers have been provided with food, water, medicines, oxygen, and communication devices through the pipes. The workers have also been given psychological counseling and moral support by the rescuers.
The rescue operation is being carried out by a multi-agency team, which includes the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), the State Disaster Response Force (SDRF), the police, the Border Roads Organisation (BRO), the Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC), the Satluj Jal Vidyut Nigam (SJVN), the Rail Vikas Nigam Limited (RVNL), the National Highways and Infrastructure Development Corporation Limited (NHIDCL), and the Tehri Hydro Development Corporation Limited (THDCL).