Uttarakhand: Army deployed in tunnel rescue mission as officials explore vertical drilling options
With the rescue operations to bring out 41 labourers trapped inside an under-construction road tunnel in Uttarakhand yet to see any major breakthrough even after a week, the Indian Army has now been tasked with constructing a track to the top of the hill.
Rescuers hope to reach out to the trapped workers through vertical drilling if such a track is constructed.
"One hundred and fifty soldiers of our company are engaged in this work and a track of about 320 meters is to be constructed and then 80 to 120 meters need to be drilled. We will work on war footing and track construction will be completed by 9 am tomorrow. Wherever trees come in between, we will cut them," Army official Major Naman Narula told news agency ANI.
"As soon as the drilling work is completed, it will become easier to provide food and water and then we will start the rescue work from the tunnel," he said.
Uttarkashi DFO D.P. Baluni said a spot right above the tunnel has been identified and marked for vertical drilling.
“A hole will be drilled from there. The depth of the whole would be approximately 300-350 feet,” he told the news agency.
Efforts are on to bolster the entire area's strength so that it remains totally safe for workers trapped inside the tunnel, he further said.
According to reports, the administration has also roped in a tree-cutting expert to help the vertical drilling work.
The labourers were trapped after a portion of the tunnel being built between Silkyara and Dandalgaon on the Brahmakhal-Yamunotri national highway in Uttarkashi caved in on November 12.
The horizontal rescue work has been put on hold since Friday when a US-made auger machine deployed to drill and push in pipes through the rubble to prepare an escape passage for the trapped workers developed a snag.
Another high-performance machine has been airlifted from Indore reached Silkyara on Saturday. Reports said the machine has arrived as three parts and they need to be assembled before being deployed for drilling.
The auger machine had drilled up to 24 metres through the rubble inside the tunnel when it encountered a snag on Friday.
The 30-metre collapsed section is 270 metres from the mouth of the tunnel from the Silkyara side, officials said, adding that the labourers were safe and that they are being provided oxygen, electricity, medicines, food items and water through pipes.
Meanwhile, a central team has arrived at the disaster site to review the progress of the rescue mission.
The team comprised Additional Secretary, MoRTH Mahmood Ahmed, Deputy Secretary, PMO, Mangesh Ghildiyal, Varun Adhikari, Geologist Engg, and engineering expert Armando Capellan.