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Silkyara tunnel collapse: Vertical drilling makes progress, 5 more rescue plans underway

Alternate measures, such as sideways drilling, are being explored, awaiting the arrival of necessary machinery, anticipated at the collapse site to pave a 17-meter path to reach the trapped workers.

Silkyara tunnel collapse: Vertical drilling makes progress, 5 more rescue plans in works AJR
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First Published Nov 27, 2023, 8:34 AM IST

As the 41 workers continue to remain trapped within the collapsed Silkyara-Barkot tunnel in Uttarakhand's Uttarkashi for over two weeks, rescue efforts have intensified in a bid to free them from the wreckage. The tunnel collapsed on November 12, compelling rescue teams to explore multiple strategies to extract the stranded individuals.

In a significant move, rescue teams initiated vertical drilling into the hill above the tunnel on Sunday, making headway of nearly 20 meters. This approach is one of the six strategies under consideration to liberate the trapped workers.

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The Indian Army has joined forces to manually drill the tunnel after the advanced auger drilling machine experienced a breakdown. The objective is to create a vertical escape passage by boring down to 86 meters, with progress marking a depth of approximately 19.5 meters by Sunday evening. If unimpeded, the vertical drilling is anticipated to conclude by Thursday, as per National Highways & Infrastructure Development Corporation Limited (NHIDCL) managing director Mahmood Ahmed.

Simultaneously, insertion of 700-mm wide pipes and a 200-mm probe reaching the 70-meter mark form part of the ongoing drilling activities to establish an escape route.

Retired Lt Gen Syed Ata Hasnain, a member of the NDMA, said that six rescue strategies are in play. The shift to vertical drilling ensued after encountering setbacks with horizontal drilling from the tunnel's Silkyara-end, obstructed by roughly 60 meters of debris.

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Alternate measures, such as sideways drilling, are being explored, awaiting the arrival of necessary machinery, anticipated at the collapse site to pave a 17-meter path to reach the trapped workers.

Efforts to create a 483-meter rescue tunnel through controlled blasting from the Barkot end have commenced, with five blasts penetrating a 10-12 meter area as of Sunday morning. Authorities aim for three blasts daily to expedite the rescue.

While trapped workers are provided essentials, including light, oxygen, food, and medicine, efforts to alleviate stress caused by the operation's halt due to the auger machine breakdown are ongoing. Disassembling the damaged auger drill remains a priority for its extraction from the tunnel.

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