Day 11: Breakthrough imminent in Uttarakhand tunnel rescue op as pace of drilling picks up | India News


A breakthrough in the Uttarkashi tunnel rescue appeared on the horizon Wednesday as rescuers made swift progress drilling through 55 metres of debris behind which 41 men have been trapped for over 10 days.

It was on Friday that a heavy-duty machine drilling into the rubble ran into trouble around the 22-metre mark, and the process had to be halted. After repairs were made, drilling resumed on Tuesday, and by Wednesday evening, a pipe had been inserted into the debris up to 42 metres. It is through this pipe that the men are expected to be pulled out.

While rescuers had started working on five operations simultaneously to rescue the men, the one on the Silkyara end is the most promising.

Mahmood Ahmad, the Managing Director of National Highways & Infrastructure Development Corporation Limited (NHIDCL), said that after 900 mm pipes got stuck and stopped moving further, rescuers decided to push 800 mm pipes through the wider ones using the “telescopic method”.

“After pushing the 800 mm pipes, we started the drilling around 12.45 pm and we are happy to announce that we have drilled through around 39 metres and placed the pipes too. It is a matter of joy for us. However, till we are not inside by around 45-50 metres, we cannot say anything with full confidence,” said Ahmad in the afternoon.

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Later in the day, an official press release stated that “about 67% augur drilling” had been completed, and “horizontal pipe inserted up to 42 metres”.

Ahmad said during the day that at the current speed, if there is no new hurdle, the trapped workers could be out by late Wednesday night or Thursday morning. Ambulances also started arriving at the site, with one vehicle for each worker expected to be stationed at the entrance of the tunnel before the men come out.

Uttarakhand Government Secretary Neeraj Khairwal confirmed that after a visual communication was established on Tuesday, officials have also been successful in establishing an audio communication channel after sending a microphone and speaker to the other end of the six-inch supply pipe.

“On this side, we are using headphones to talk to them. Using this channel, our doctors talked to them and asked about their well being. Some of them complained of constipation and medicines were provided,” he said.

The official informed that basic items like undergarments, towels, toothbrush and other essentials were also provided.

A full meal, including daal filled in plastic bottles, along with mixed vegetable, roti and rice wrapped in aluminium foil, were also sent to the men.

Five agencies – ONGC, SJVNL, RVNL, NHIDCL, and THDCL – have been assigned specific responsibilities in the rescue operation, working collaboratively “with occasional task adjustments for operational efficiency”, officials said.


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