The untiring efforts to rescue workers trapped in the under-construction tunnel of Kiratpur-Nerchowk-Manali four-lane project in Bilaspur district gathered pace on Friday as the high-speed rig drilled 28 meters vertically through the tunnel.
The rig, brought from Mathura and Jaipur was taken uphill to the drilling point by an approach road. “Taking the rig uphill was difficult. We have set the target to start the drilling on Friday. We are few hours ahead and there has been significant progress,” said Bilaspur deputy commissioner Mansi Sahay Thakur. It is the sixth day of rescue operation.
The drilling was fast in the initial hours as the strata were loose, said the DC. “The pace of work slowed down due to hard strata after 27 meters, added the DC.
The machine has to drill 45 to 47 meters vertically through the tunnel to reach two workers — Satish Tomar and Mani Ram — who have been confirmed alive after rescuers established contact with them on Wednesday through a remote camera lowered down through a communication channel drilled into the tunnel.
The fate of the third worker Hirday Ram is uncertain as there has been no contact with him so far.
“The drilling work is likely to be completed between 12 and 18 hours. However, a lot of work is to be done after that. Most important being to stable the cavity by inserting a casing to prevent debris or muck falling into the bore,” said the DC, adding that rescuers were working round-the-clock to accomplish the task.
She said a team of technical experts from Satluj Jal Vidyut Nigam Limited (SJVN), Himachal Pradesh Power Corporation Limited (HPPCL), and two European consultants were present on the site to oversee the rescue work. “The work on the rescue tunnel being dug horizontally through the debris has also been expedited,” the DC added.
HPPCL general manager (designs) KK Goyal said the drilling work had been smooth so far. “The real test will be when the bore reaches the arch of the tunnel. We need to be careful as the pressure exerted by the machine could damage the tunnel or the communication channel,” said Goyal.
Three workers of Himalayan Construction Company were trapped in tunnel number 4 of the four-lane project on Saturday evening when a part of it collapsed.
Two workers who are alive are being provided food, water and juice through the communication channel drilled earlier.