• Friday, December 01, 2023


Foreign teams, American machine deployed to rescue workers trapped in India’s tunnel collapse

The team that successfully rescued children from a cave in Thailand in 2018 has also joined the operation.

Workers at a rescue operation at the under-construction tunnel from Silkyara to Dandalgaon in Uttarkashi in the northern Indian state of Uttarakhand that collapsed on November 12, 2023. (ANI Photo)

By: Shubham Ghosh

THE race against time to rescue 40 construction workers trapped under the debris at a collapsed tunnel in Uttarkashi district of the northern Indian state of Uttarakhand on Thursday (16) entered the fifth day. Ninety-six hours have passed since the workers have remained there with the possibility of them surviving fading by the minute. Foreign teams and machines have also been deployed to hasten the process.

On Sunday (12), the 4,531 metre-long Silkyara tunnel, which is part of the Chardham project, an infrastructure initiative to enhance connectivity to Hindu pilgrimage sites of Badrinath, Kedarnath, Gangotri and Yamunotri, under the Indian ministry of road transport and highways, collapsed, leaving the workers’ lives in danger.

The administration swung into action fast to rescue them and provided them with essential food and medicines. Rescue officials were keeping communication with the workers regularly, giving them encouragement and hope of surviving.

The 4,531 metre-long Silkyara tunnel is part of the Chardham Project of the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways

Teams from other nations, including from Thailand and Norway, have also joined the operations. The team that successfully rescued children from a cave in Thailand in 2018 has also joined the operation. An American Augers boring machine has also been flown in from New Delhi to aid the rescue operation. The equipment can accelerate the process to clean up the debris and bring the workers to safety.

The machine was brought in disassembled components at the Chinyalisaur airport in Uttarkashi, located over 30 kilometres from the spot of the collapse. The plan involves putting the machine into use to excavate a passage through the debris of the collapsed section.

Once the passage is cleared, mild steel pipes of 800 millimetre (mm) and 900-mm diameter segments will be installed, one at a time. Once the procedure is completed, the workers trapped will be able to come to safety.

On Wednesday (15), the rescue operation was hampered by a fresh landslide which forced the teams to disassemble the machine and restart construction of the platform.

Dr Sudhir Krishna, a former secretary at India’s urban development ministry, identified several challenges hindering the rescue work.

Speaking to NDTV, he said, “Himalayan region comprises soft rocks in general. Only in patches, there are hard stable rocks. It’s a difficult situation. There are multiple challenges (in rescue work), landslide is one, land subsidence is the second.”

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