Uttarkashi: The rescue operation to save 41 workers trapped inside an under-construction tunnel in Uttarkashi district of Uttarakhand has faced another setback on Friday. The platform of the auger machine, which is used to lay pipes through the rubble, has broken down and halted the progress of the rescue team. The platform is being repaired and the operation is expected to resume on Friday morning.
The workers have been stuck inside the tunnel since November 12, when a portion of the Silkyara Bend – Barkot tunnel collapsed for unknown reasons. The tunnel is part of the Char Dham all-weather road project connecting four sites sacred to Hindus. The rescue team, led by the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), the State Disaster Response Force (SDRF), and the police, has been trying to reach the workers by clearing the debris and drilling passages through the tunnel.
On Thursday, the rescue team started to drill the remaining 18 meters of the tunnel but had to stop after 1.8 meters due to the presence of rebar in the debris. The rebar was removed by seven experts who arrived by helicopter from Delhi. However, 16.2 meters of drilling still remains to be done. The rescue team has also been using a trenchless technique, inserting large-diameter mild steel pipes through the rubble to create an escape passage for the workers.
The trapped workers are safe and provide food, water, and oxygen through small pipes. On Tuesday, the first picture of the workers inside the tunnel was released, showing them in good condition. Milk and khichdi are packed in bottles and sent to them through the pipes. The rescue team has also established communication with the workers using a flexible camera.
The Uttarakhand government has constituted a six-member expert committee to probe the cause of the tunnel collapse. The committee will submit its report within 15 days. The Chief Minister of Uttarakhand, Pushkar Singh Dhami, has assured that all possible efforts are being made to rescue the workers as soon as possible.
The rescue operation has been challenging and unpredictable, as the tunnel is located in a remote and hilly area. The rescue team has faced several difficulties, such as bad weather, heavy machinery, and technical glitches. The Lieutenant General of the Ministry of Disaster Management Authority (MDMA), Syed Ata Hasnen, has said that it is impossible to fix a rescue operation timeline, as the ground situation is uncertain. He has also praised the NDRF and other agencies for their heroic efforts. He has requested the public to pray for the safe rescue of the workers.