Uttarakhand Tunnel Rescue Op Resumes Hours After Snag Halts Drilling

Drilling progress was temporarily paused on Thursday to strengthen the platform supporting the 25-ton drilling machine before operations were resumed today.

The government has implemented a five-pronged action plan to rescue the trapped workers.

New Delhi: Rescue efforts for the 41 workers trapped in Uttarakhand's Silkyara tunnel entered the final stretch today. Drilling operations had to be halted late last night after the auger machine broke down, before being resumed today.

Here are 10 points on this big story:

  1. The horizontal drilling operation to rescue the trapped workers could encounter additional obstacles, potentially up to three or four more, according to National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) member Lt. Gen. (Retd.) Syed Ata Hasnain. Mr Hasnain stressed that predicting a timeframe for the rescue operation would be imprudent, considering the unpredictable and challenging nature of the task.

  2. Mr Hasnain further stated that 41 ambulances, one for each trapped worker, are stationed at the tunnel site, and arrangements have been made to airlift severely injured workers.

  3. The 41 workers trapped under the collapsed tunnel will be pulled out on wheeled stretchers one by one through a big pipe that is still being drilled to reach them, National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) Director General Atul Karwal told news agency PTI. 

  4. NDRF personnel will slide in through the pipe and once they reach the workers, they will use the stretchers to send out workers one by one, said Mr Karwal.

  5. Every worker will be carefully positioned on a stretcher to prevent their limbs from scraping against the welded pipe's metal underside while NDRF personnel skillfully maneuver the stretcher with a rope.

  6. "There was a report of a possible earthquake which had happened, very low-intensity, very low on the Richter scale. It was missed by everyone at that particular time. But that is not part of climate or weather pattern," Mr Hasnain said yesterday.

  7. The National Highways and Infrastructure Development Corporation Limited (NHIDCL) has re-initiated horizontal drilling from the Silkyara end to rescue trapped workers with the aid of an Auger boring machine, as per the government's latest media update.

  8. The rescue operation faced a setback when a metallic object, identified as a lattice girder rib, impeded the further insertion of the rescue pipe. At 2:30 am, gas cutters were deployed to remove the metallic obstacle, allowing the pipe to be extended.

  9. The government has implemented a five-pronged action plan to rescue the trapped workers, with five agencies: Oil and Natural Gas Corporation, Sutluj Jal Vidyut Nigam, Rail Vikas Nigam, National Highways and Infrastructure Development Corporation, and Tehri Hydro Development Corporation - each assigned specific responsibilities.

  10. Situated about 30 km from Uttarkashi and a seven-hour drive from Dehradun, the Silkyara tunnel is an integral part of the central government's Char Dham all-weather road project.

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