28 Nov 2023

Uttarakhand Tunnel Rescue: Vertical drilling makes swift advancement; work will not be hindered due to rains

Rescue efforts for the 41 trapped workers in the collapsed section of the Uttarkashi tunnel have entered their 16th day, with a shift in focus to vertical drilling as part of a multi-pronged strategy.

Commencing on Sunday afternoon, the vertical drilling of the Silkyara hill aims to excavate approximately 110 meters for the workers' rescue. Progress has been swift, with the machine successfully penetrating 20 meters of the hill, leaving around 86 meters to be drilled.

The decision to employ vertical drilling followed the failure of the American auger drill machine in horizontally drilling the tunnel. The auger encountered obstacles and became entangled in a metal grinder during the operation.

Key highlights from the ongoing rescue mission include the vertical drilling machine's rapid advancement, while the plasma machine flown in from Hyderabad cut out the auger machine from the pipe on the side of the tunnel..

The trapped workers are receiving cooked food, water, and medical supplies through a small 6-inch tunnel inserted into the debris.

Upon completion of the vertical drilling, the plan is to airlift the 41 workers out of the collapsed tunnel using a chopper and a harness rope.

Manual horizontal digging will commence alongside vertical drilling 

Earlier, the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) announced on Monday that manual horizontal digging will commence alongside the ongoing top-down or vertical drilling to rescue the 41 trapped workers in the Silkyara tunnel in Uttarkashi.

Manual horizontal digging will start soon in addition to the ongoing top-down drilling to rescue the 41 trapped workers in the Silkyara tunnel in Uttarkashi, the NDMA said on Monday.

Manual drilling was resorted to as the auger drill which drilled up to 46.8 metres busted as it hit several hurdles on the way and got entangled in a girder in the debris.

National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) Member Lt Gen (retd) Syed Ata Hasnain told reporters in New Delhi that the broken blades of the auger machine have been fully retrieved. 

"Now, the manual drilling technique will be employed with the help of Indian Army engineers, rat miners, and other technicians," he said.

Hasnain further said there will be a team of six members who will work in groups of three..

Work would not be hindered due to rain

NDA officials said a yellow alert has been issued by the IMD, indicating the possibility of light rains in the next 24-48 hours. However, they assured that work would not be hindered.

Various agencies, including NHIDCL, RVNL, SJVNL, ONGC, THDC, CIMFR, BRO, GSI, international experts, and private agencies, briefed the Prime Minister's Principal Secretary about ongoing rescue efforts. 

PM's Principal Secretary PK Mishra, Home Secretary Ajay K Bhalla, and Uttarakhand Chief Secretary S S Sandhu also assessed the rescue operations. Mishra emphasized the need for safety and speed in execution, assuring government support for the operation.

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