Uttarkashi: Efforts to rescue 41 workers confined in Uttarakhand’s Silkyara tunnel recommenced on Thursday morning following a setback overnight that caused a delay in the drilling process for several hours.
Former advisor to the prime minister’s office, Bhaskar Khulbe, mentioned that a hurdle arose during the drilling process as an iron mesh obstructed the path of the drilling machine. This obstacle, crucial for creating an escape route for the workers, was successfully removed in the morning.
However, this setback has prolonged the rescue mission by an estimated 12 to 14 hours. Khulbe emphasized the challenges faced in removing the mesh within the confined and oxygen-deprived environment within the pipe.
“After six hours of intense effort, we managed to clear the obstruction encountered yesterday after reaching a depth of 45 meters through drilling,” Khulbe informed reporters.
The operation to progress beyond the 45-meter mark, which necessitates the assembly and welding of pipes, is now underway. Resumption of the drilling process is expected shortly, he added.
The anticipated timeline for completing the operation to reach the trapped workers is approximately 12 to 14 hours, followed by an estimated three hours to extract each worker individually with the assistance of the NDRF, as per Khulbe.
Union Minister of State for Road Transport and Highways Gen V K Singh and NDRF Director General Atul Karwal are present at Silkyara to oversee the ongoing rescue efforts. Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami is also expected to arrive imminently.
The drilling of 800mm diameter steel pipes had been halted on Wednesday night due to the mesh obstructing the auger machine’s progress, as per officials.
Earlier reports indicated that the drilling machine, made in America, had encountered resistance around the 22-meter mark, causing safety concerns. However, the drilling resumed on Tuesday midnight.
Upon successful drilling, six-meter sections of steel pipes will be inserted into the escape passage, creating a route for the trapped workers to crawl out once the passage reaches their location.
Preparations for immediate medical attention for the evacuated workers have been organized, with a dedicated 41-bed ward set up at the Community Health Centre in Chinyalisaur. Additionally, 41 ambulances stand ready outside the tunnel to swiftly transport the workers to the health center once they emerge from the tunnel.
(With input from agencies)