Uttarkashi, Nov 16: Rescue operations to bring out the 40 workers trapped in an under-construction tunnel in Silkyara in Uttarakhand's Uttarkashi resumed for the fifth day on Thursday as an Auger drilling machine began to operate to expedite the process of digging through the debris and rescuing the people.
This heavy drilling machine has been brought from Delhi to Uttarakhand by the Indian Air Force's Hercules cargo aircraft.
National Highways and Infrastructure Development Corporation Ltd. (NHIDCL) Director Anshu Manish Khalkho said that the 25 ton heavy Auger machine drills five to six metres per hour.
If this drilling machine works well then all the 40 workers trapped in the tunnel can be rescued in the next 10 to 15 hours. However, the working of this machine will also depend on how far the workers are trapped inside the tunnel.
After the installation of the Jack and Push Earth Auger machine sent from Delhi, it has started drilling and pipe pushing. At present, the entire process is going on satisfactorily. In case there is no glitch in the rescue operation, it is expected that the trapped workers will be rescued by late Thursday evening or Friday.
Meanwhile, Union Minister V.K. Singh arrived at the tunnel on Thursday to take stock of the rescue operation, where he spoke to the rescue officials and tried to find out the reasons behind the accident that took place in the tunnel.
The Minister said that all the 40 workers are trapped in a 2-km empty space inside the tunnel where there is some light and the authorities are sending food and water to the trapped workers.
This new drilling machine is operating more powerfully and speedily than the older one.
On the fifth day of the tunnel collapse, Uttarakhand Director General of Police Ashok Kumar also reached the spot and took stock of the situation. Later, he told the media that all the Central and the state agencies are trying their best to rescue the trapped workers.
He added that all the people trapped in the tunnel are completely safe.
"We all have to maintain their (trapped workers') morale by playing a positive role. Now the Army and Air Force have also been involved in the rescue operation," he stated.
On Tuesday night, when the efforts being made at the state government level were not successful, the PMO, which was continuously monitoring the situation, sprung into action. After this, the Central government sent the Jack and Push Earth Auger machine weighing 25 tonnes to Uttarkashi in two parts on the IAF's Hercules cargo aircraft.
Both the planes carrying the machines arrived at the Chinyalisaur airstrip and from there the administration created a 'Green Corridor' on the highway from Chinyalisaur to Silkyara to quickly transport the parts of the machines.
Expert agencies of Thailand and Norway have also been consulted to rescue the workers. Help was sought from the Thailand agencies which had rescued children trapped in a tunnel last year.
At present, an Army team led by Colonel Deepak Patil is also involved in the relief and rescue operations.
Apart from these, a team of 200 people is working round the clock. Soldiers and personnel of various state agencies, including the NDRF, SDRF, local police, fire service, ITBP, BRO, Rail Vikas Nigam have also been deployed in the operation.
SDRF Commandant Manikant Mishra is at the spot for the fifth day along with local administration and police officials.
Engineer and drilling expert Aadesh Jain said late on Wednesday night that till November 14, debris had caved in six times and its radius had increased to 70 metres.
The drilling machine that was installed earlier could work only up to 45 metres.
According to NDRF Assistant Commander Karamveer Singh, the 4.5-km long and 14-metre wide tunnel was plastered up to 200 metres from the starting point.