Uttarakhand tunnel collapse: 900 mm pipe being inserted using Auger machine
Union minister for road transport and highways Nitin Gadkari on Sunday reviewed the rescue operation at the partially collapsed Silkyara tunnel in Uttarkashi.
Rescue efforts are vigorously underway to save the 41 laborers trapped in Uttarakhand's Uttarkashi district since November 12 due to a partially collapsed tunnel. In the latest update, the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) said they are ready with equipment to overcome any obstacles hindering the rescue of the workers in the Silkyara-Dandalgaon tunnel. A 900mm diameter pipe with the help of the Auger machine is being inserted at the tunnel site, news agency ANI reported, quoting disaster management officials.
NDRF Second-In-Command Ravishankar Badhani said, “We have two teams here. We have cutting equipment, and oxy-cutting machines are available... We are trying to reach the victims as soon as possible... We are ready for any situation. If the victims are not able to move, we have also modified our stretchers... Now, we are preparing according to the new approach of vertical and parallel drilling…”
In a video shared by news agency ANI, the latest equipment of the NDRF teams was displayed for the operation, featuring oxy-cutting machines, modified stretchers, and other tools.
Disaster Management Secretary Ranjit Sinha explained, “We are inserting a 900mm diameter pipe with the help of the Auger machine. We have reached 22 meters and we are going ahead rapidly. There is a lifeline pipe for sending food and other necessary items. We are inserting another pipe above it because there was less debris there. There we have gone till 42 meters and only a few meters are left. We will have another pipe for life support when that becomes ready.”
Union minister Gadkari reviews rescue operation
Union minister for road transport and highways Nitin Gadkari on Sunday reviewed the rescue efforts at the partially collapsed Silkyara tunnel and said the necessary work to save all the 41 trapped workers will be done. Gadkari, who was accompanied by chief minister Dhami, said the rescue operation is challenging as the soil strata in the Himalayan region are not uniform.
He further said that the operation will be carried out keeping the morale of workers and their family members high should be everyone's collective responsibility.
"The American auger was working alright when it was drilling through soft soil. It faced some problems after it encountered some hard obstacle that led to the machine applying greater pressure and creating vibrations following which it was stopped for safety reasons," Gadkari was quoted as saying by news agency PTI at a press conference in Silkyara.
The Union minister highlighted the diverse terrain, posing difficulties due to varying soil conditions—some sections being softer while others are harder. This diverse landscape presents challenges for mechanical operations. Gadkari stressed that, given the situation, employing the American auger for horizontal drilling stands out as the most effective approach to swiftly access the trapped workers.
"We are working on six options simultaneously. The PMO is also closely monitoring the operation. Our biggest priority is to save all those who are trapped and as soon as possible. Whatever is needed will be done," he said.
A quick look at the timeline of the trap
November 12: 41 labourers were trapped as sections of the Silkyara-Dandalgaon tunnel collapsed due to a landslide on Diwali day.
November 13: Oxygen supply was established via pipe, workers reported safe. Chief minister Pushkar Singh Dhami visited the site, rescue operations continued.
November 14: Introduction of 800 and 900 mm steel pipes for horizontal excavation with an auger machine. However, the efforts suffered a setback when more rubble fell from the cavity created by the cave-in and caused minor injuries to two labourers.
November 15: The National Highways & Infrastructure Development Corporation Limited (NHIDCL) requested a superior American auger machine from Delhi to expedite rescue efforts.
November 16: Installation and initiation of the high-performance drilling machine post-midnight.
November 17: Machine drills 24 meters, inserts four six-meter MS pipes, but halted due to an obstacle. Another auger machine from Indore arrived after reported damage to the first. Rescue paused due to a cracking sound heard during operations.
November 18: Experts halted drilling on Saturday due to concerns about vibrations from the powerful 1,750-horsepower American auger. They feared these vibrations might trigger additional debris collapses, posing a serious risk to the safety of the rescue team.
(With inputs from agencies)