22 Nov 2023

Uttarakhand Tunnel Collapse: Stalled rescue operation resumes as first visuals of 41 trapped workers emerge

As the first visuals of the 41 workers trapped inside the Silkyara tunnel in Uttarakhand emerged, officials said they have resumed the stalled operation to evacuate them through an escape passage cutting across the debris.

On Tuesday, the first images of the 41 workers trapped inside the Silkyara tunnel emerged, bringing hope to the families awaiting their rescue as the multi-faceted operation entered its 10th day.

The visuals were captured using an endoscopic camera sent through a six-inch pipeline, which had been pushed through the collapsed section of the tunnel on Uttarakhand's Char Dham route the previous day.

Video shows workers receiving food items

A video released by the rescue agencies showed workers, wearing yellow and white helmets, receiving food items sent through the pipeline and engaging in conversation. Officials, monitoring the situation on a screen, provided instructions, asking the workers to clean the lens and appear on camera. They urged them to approach the pipeline's mouth and use the previously sent walkie-talkies.

Relatives communicate with trapped workers

Relatives had communicated with the trapped workers earlier through a four-inch compressor tube, and dry fruits were sent through that pipe. The new, wider 'lifeline' piercing through 53 meters of rubble significantly improved communication, also allowing larger quantities of food to be sent.

Sunita Hembrum, whose brother-in-law Pradeep Kisku is among the trapped, expressed relief, saying, "Oranges have been supplied to them through the new food pipe. Efforts are also underway to send khichdi to them. He was fine." She noted the improved clarity in communication compared to previous attempts.

Officials reported that food items like dalia, khichdi, sliced apples, bananas, and even mobile phones with chargers could be sent through the new pipeline.

PM seeks updates on rescue efforts

Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke with Uttarakhand Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami for the second consecutive day, expressing concern and seeking updates on the rescue efforts. Dhami shared information about using the endoscopic camera to communicate with the workers, emphasizing that the safe rescue of all workers was a top priority.

The tunnel collapse occurred on November 12 after a landslide, leaving the workers trapped behind a massive pile of debris. Efforts to drill through the debris encountered challenges, including a setback when the drill encountered a boulder. Alternative plans, such as vertical drilling from above and exploring other ends of the tunnel, are now in progress.

Heavy machinery for these approaches has reached the disaster site, and a road has been constructed to transport a 75-tonne machine uphill for vertical drilling. In Delhi, the government issued an advisory to private television channels, urging sensitivity in their coverage of the ongoing rescue operations.

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