Uttarakhand tunnel collapse: ‘Auger is finished’; official explains delay | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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Uttarakhand tunnel collapse: ‘Auger machine is finished’; official explains delay in rescue

Nov 25, 2023 12:43 PM IST

Uttarkashi tunnel rescue: The US-made Auger machine's blades struck an obstacle again and were damaged.

Uttarkashi: The authorities working round the clock to evacuate 41 workers trapped in a partially collapsed tunnel in Uttarkashi, brought out the damaged Auger machine on Saturday morning. The rest of the rescue operation -- which entered its 14th day today -- will be completed through manual drilling.

Rescue personnel move a digging machine during rescue operation for workers trapped in the Silkyara under construction road tunnel, days after it collapsed in the Uttarkashi district of India's Uttarakhand state.(AFP)
Rescue personnel move a digging machine during rescue operation for workers trapped in the Silkyara under construction road tunnel, days after it collapsed in the Uttarkashi district of India's Uttarakhand state.(AFP)

The US-made Auger machine's blades struck an obstacle again and sustained damage. It was removed from the pipeline for repairs. As only a few metres separate the trapped workers and the rescuers, it was decided to employ manual drilling. The heavy duty drillers could be moved back 22 metres, reported ANI quoting an unnamed official. The remaining 6-9 metres of debris will be cleared manually.

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"There are multiple ways. It's not just one way... At the moment, everything is fine... You will not see the Augering anymore. Auger is finished. The auger (machine) has broken. It's irreparable. No more work from auger. No more drilling from auger. There will not be a new auger," said tunneling expert Arnold Dix.

A senior official told the news agency that frequent breakdowns in the Auger machine had been delaying the rescue of the trapped workers. The senior official said every time the machine hit an obstruction, it had to be pulled back 50 metres and pushed back after repairs. The entire process would set the rescuers back by 5-7 hours.

"While drilling with the US-made Auger machine, if we hit an obstruction every two to three feet, we have to remove it. And, every time we hit an obstruction, we have to roll Auger back 50 metres (up to which the pipeline has been laid). After running repairs, the machine has to be pushed back up to 50 metres, which takes about 5 to 7 hours. This is the reason why the rescue operation is taking longer than it should," the official, who didn't wish to be named, told ANI.

"The rescue team has now decided that the pipeline will now be extended further through manual drilling over small distances. Even if we hit an obstruction further up, the issue could be resolved manually and the pipeline could be extended further without losing out on precious time," the official added.

Also read: Uttarakhand tunnel collapse: NDMA warns of potential risk to workers, rescuers amid '2-hour rescue' hope

The officials refused to quote a timeframe for their rescue. They were, however, hopeful of a positive outcome.

Ground-penetrating radar used

A team of rescuers used the ground-penetrating radar (GPR) technique to study the tunnel. They found there were no heavy objects up to 5 metres inside the tunnel.

Also read: '12-14 hours': Senior official gives time frame for Uttarakhand tunnel rescue operation

The team was called after the Auger machine hit an obstruction, leaving it in a state of disrepair.

Meanwhile, the Border Roads Organization (BRO) has been asked to transport machines to allow the authorities to enable vertical drilling.

This approach was discussed after the machine drilling horizontally from the Silyara side hit an obstacle on Friday evening.

A final decision on the vertical drilling option is likely to be taken by Sutlej Jal Vidyut Nigam (SJVN) and Oil and Natural Gas Corporation, reported ANI.

The 41 workers have been trapped inside the tunnel since November 12, when the tunnel partially collapsed. They are safe as they are trapped inside a 2-km-long built portion. The authorities have been supplying them with food, water, medicines and oxygen.

With inputs from ANI

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