Uttarkashi, Nov 15: After nearly 70 hours of relentless efforts to rescue 40 workers trapped beneath the wreckage of a collapsed under-construction tunnel in Uttarkashi district, Uttarakhand, officials expressed optimism that all stranded workers will be successfully evacuated by today.
Unfortunately, a recent landslide on Tuesday posed a challenge to the rescue operation, resulting in a stampede-like situation and injuring two workers as rubble fell from above.
Uttarkashi district magistrate Abhishek Ruhela conveyed to media earlier that if the planned actions unfold as expected, the trapped workers should be rescued by Wednesday. A joint force comprising over 160 personnel from the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), State Disaster Response Force (SDRF), Border Roads Organisation (BRO), and Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) is racing against time to reach the stranded workers.
The 40 laborers were trapped inside the tunnel, located between Silkyara and Dandalgaon on the Brahmakhal-Yamunotri National Highway, which collapsed on Sunday due to a landslide.
The evacuation plan involves using eight 900-millimeter (almost 3 feet) diameter pipes, each six meters in length, and five pipes of 800-millimeter diameter, also six meters long, made of mild steel. These pipes are intended to be pushed sequentially into the rubble using drilling equipment, creating an escape passage for the workers.
The insertion of pipes involves shotcreting, which is the application of concrete on the debris to stabilize loose material. A hydraulic jack will be employed to push the pipes through the rubble. The drilling process commenced on Tuesday with an auger machine, and excavators have been clearing debris for two days.
A team of five engineers from the irrigation department is overseeing the process of inserting mild steel pipes through the rubble, as confirmed by the State Emergency Operation Centre.
Communication with the trapped workers is being maintained, and their morale has been boosted by the assurance of a comprehensive rescue operation.
On Tuesday, the workers informed Manikant Mishra, the commandant of Uttarakhand's SDRF that they are "doing well." The son of one trapped worker, Gabbar Singh Negi, had a brief conversation with his father, who assured him of their safety and requested not to worry. However, one of the trapped workers reported feeling nauseous, and necessary medications were supplied to address the issue.