Who is Arnold Dix, underground expert roped in for Uttarkashi tunnel rescue?
Professor Arnold Dix, an Australia-based underground expert, is busy in the rescue work of 41 workers trapped inside the collapsed Uttarakhand tunnel.
A total of five agencies – ONGC, SJVNL, RVNL, NHIDCL, and THDCL – have been assigned specific responsibilities to evacuate the 41 labourers trapped for 13 days in the two-km-built portion of the under-construction Silkyara tunnel in Uttarakhand's Uttarkashi following a landslide.
Arnold Dix, the Australia-based president of the International Tunneling and Underground Space Association, is among the experts being consulted by rescuers.
Who is professor Arnold Dix?
- Professor Arnold Dix specialises in underground and transportation infrastructure - from construction risk to more technical issues associated with actual safety performance from an operational safety perspective.
- He also provides advice on risks associated with underground construction and is widely recognised as the world's leading expert on underground tunnelling.
- Soon after reaching the spot, Dix conducted an inspection at the Silkyara tunnel site and spoke to the agencies which have been involved in the rescue operations. With multiple agencies and plans in place to evacuate the trapped workers, Dix appears confident of finding an optimum solution to rescue the workers.
- On Thursday, Dix reiterated that all the 41 workers stuck inside the tunnel would be rescued by Christmas. Dix's assurance came after boring through the rubble of the collapsed Silkyara tunnel was put on hold again on Thursday apparently after cracks appeared in the platform on which the drilling machine rests, in a fresh hurdle to the rescue the workers.
- "We were hoping to see the workers this time yesterday, then we were hoping to see them this morning and then this afternoon. But, it looks like the mountain had different ideas. We have had to pause the auger (machine) operation at the moment and some repairs are being done to the machine. We are probably going to enter the next phase where we consider other options," said Dix told news agency PTI.
- In the wake of the tunnel collapse, Dix stressed the importance of meticulous planning and safety, stating that the current situation seems promising but requires careful evaluation to avoid further risks. His approach underlines the need for thorough analysis and consideration of all aspects of such critical operations.
- Dix's career is marked by numerous accolades, reflecting his significant contributions to tunnel safety worldwide. In 2011, he received the Alan Neyland Australasian Tunnelling Society bi-annual award for excellence in tunnelling, specifically in tunnel fire safety.
- Dix, also a barrister, is a member of the British Institute of Investigators. He is active on all continents, a member of the specialist Underground Works Chambers, a member of the Victorian Bar and is a visiting professor of engineering (tunnels) at Tokyo City University.
- His career over the three decades has seen a unique hybrid of engineering, geology, law and risk management matters. Dix's key strength is in his ability to bridge the gap between the legal and technical dimensions of a problem, risk assessment or dispute.
- In addition to his legal work as a barrister, Dix can be engaged as an investigator, expert witness, consultant and mediator.
- Dix's efforts in enhancing fire safety in tunnels have been recognised as groundbreaking. More recently, in 2022, he was honoured with a Committee Service Award by the National Fire Protection Association of the United States of America.
What's the update on Uttarakhand tunnel collapse?
The drilling work at Uttarkashi's Silkyara tunnel to evacuate the 41 trapped workers was halted again on Thursday night after the augur machine encountered a technical snag. Till now, rescuers have drilled up to 46.8 meters in the Silkyara tunnel, news agency ANI reported.
Meanwhile, Uttarakhand chief minister Pushkar Singh Dhami will stay overnight at the site to monitor the rescue operations which entered the final phase on Wednesday.
Officials have mentioned that no specific timelines should be assumed however if all goes well and the rescue work does not face any obstruction then workers will be out by tomorrow afternoon.