Tunnel expert Arnold Dix, who promised trapped workers’ families their homecoming, ‘over the moon’ after mission success
The expert told an Australian chennel that when he first arrived at the scene, it looked like “an avalanche with millions of tonnes of rock and a huge cavity inside”.
International tunneling expert Arnold Dix at the under-construction Silkyara tunnel as drilling through the rubble to prepare an escape route for the 41 trapped workers remains stalled, in Uttarkashi district of the Indian state of Uttarakhand on Friday, November 24, 2023. (PTI Photo)
ARNOLD Dix, an Australian tunnelling expert who remained on the site while 41 Indian workers were being rescued from a collapsed under-construction tunnel in the Himalayan state of Uttarakhand, has revealed his experience during the entire episode.
The specialist in underground transportation and infrastructure from Melbourne, who has been praised from various quarters for his relentless inputs and guidance during the rescue mission, told Australian Channel Seven’s Sunrise on Wednesday (29) that once he was requested for help, he found himself “literally in a helicopter being whisked out like in a MASH movie up into the Himalayas” and “was confronted with something I’ve never seen before”.
Read: When Indian industrialist Anand Mahindra praised Arnold Dix
Dix, who was even seen handling the impatient media and offering prayers at a makeshift temple by taking off his shoes for the well-being of the workers who were brought out on Tuesday (28) night, is an engineering professor, lawyer and leads the Geneva-based International Tunnelling and Underground Space Association.
The expert told Sunrise that when he first arrived at the scene, it looked like “an avalanche with millions of tonnes of rock and a huge cavity inside”.
Read: Gabbar Singh, the man who boosted his colleagues trapped in tunnel
The rescue mission was not easy, particularly after the modern machinery — an American auger machine — failed to reach the workers.
It was all left to manual drilling from that point onwards and the rescue personnel, including Dix, were engaged in manually drilling and removing the rubble using a pulley system.
The veteran felt that the progress had to be made slowly so that the fragile and “still moving” mountainside did not crumble more, making the challenge even more difficult. He told India’s NDTV that a go-slow approach would ensure that none of the trapped men would be injured and they did the job by digging 100 millimetres at a time by hand.
Using rat-hole mining technique did not surprise Dix
Dix was not surprised either by the idea of getting the rat-hole mining technique into play. A practice that has been banned by Indian authorities due to its unsafe nature and potential to pollute the environment, rat-hole mining proved to be a gamechanger in making the mission successful.
“I did anticipate ‘rat hole’ mining would be the breakthrough. That was part of the advice I gave because I could see that with every big machine used the mountain’s reaction was more severe,” he told the Indian channel.
Dix eventually succeeded in keeping the promise he had made to the families of the trapped workers that they would return home safe. The men were brought out through an escape pipe on Tuesday after the final block of rubble was manually drilled by the personnel.
“I’m just over the moon,” Dix told Australian Channel Nine’s Today show. “This is what real nice people do to help one another.”