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Tunnel breakthrough in sight, rescue team is metres away, Infra News, ET Infra


DEHRADUN/SILKYARA: After swinging between hope and despair for over 11 days, the 41 workers trapped inside the Silkyara tunnel were close to being rescued late on Wednesday after the multi-agency rescue operation, which had been focusing on the strategy of horizontal drilling since past two days, succeeded in breaching a significant portion of the debris that was blocking the way inside.

The US-made auger drilling machine, which had broken down on November 16, leading to temporary suspension of the horizontal drilling option, was put to work again on Tuesday. Its job was to push 900mm pipes inside the debris till a distance of around 60 metres so that the workers could crawl inside the pipes and come out safely. At the time of filing this report late on Wednesday, rescuers had breached around 45 metres of the debris, with only a 15-metre distance left for them to drill.

A source involved in the rescue operation told TOI that the auger machine had hit an obstacle in the evening around 6pm, leading to a temporary halt in the drilling. “NDRF personnel were sent inside the escape passage to check the hurdle. After a manual inspection, they found a metal object in the way. They have been involved in negotiating the obstacle using a gas cutter. Once that is done, the machine will start drilling again to push pipes into the leftover part,” a member of the rescue team said.

To give emergency safe passage to the rescue teams operating inside the tunnel, an escape passage by way of placing box culverts and hume pipes for a length of 67 metres had also been completed, an official of the National Highways & Infrastructure Development Corporation Limited (NHIDCL), the agency executing the tunnel project, said.

Meanwhile, Bhaksar Khulbe, former secretary to the Prime Minister and currently adviser to the Uttarakhand government, who is overseeing the operations, said he was “optimistic that the workers will be out shortly”. “I have spoken to the men and they are all in high spirits. If everything goes as per plan, they will see the light of day on Thursday,” he said.

  • Published On Nov 23, 2023 at 08:32 AM IST

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