Khatima (Uttarakhand): Uttarakhand Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami on Monday said that the efforts to evacuate 41 trapped workers inside the Silkyara tunnel are going on and the rescue operation is expected to be completed at the earliest.
Speaking to ANI on Monday, CM Dhami informed that the auger machine that got stuck in the debris has been taken out completely.
"Everyone has been trying. The auger machine has been taken out completely...Drilling and pushing work will start and we hope that the work is completed at the earliest," CM Dhami said.
He further said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been seeking information about the ongoing rescue operation on a daily basis since it was launched.
"PM Modi is seeking all important information. The National Disaster Response Force, State Disaster Response Force, Indian Air Force and Indian Army are cooperating and contributing..." he added.
After a portion of the tunnel caved in on November 12, the debris falling in the 60-metre stretch on the Silkyara side of the tunnel trapped 41 labourers inside the under-construction structure.
The augur machine that was stuck, halting the process of rescue operations, was cut by the plasma cutter, specially requisitioned and flown in from Hyderabad.
The 1-2 meter damaged part of the 1.2-meter-diameter pipeline laid through horizontal drilling is now being removed by rat miners through manual drilling. Indian Army's Madras Sappers Unit from the Corps of Engineers has been roped in to aid in the rescue operation.
As per the officials, the vertical drilling from the top of the hill is making swift progress, as 31 metres of drilling work have been completed so far out of the 86 metres needed to reach the 41 trapped workers.
Now the drilling work is being done to lay an 800/900 mm or 1.2 m diameter pipeline to aid the rescue.
The option to drill vertically was chalked out after the auger machine being used for horizontal drilling of the tunnel broke down.
In the process of cutting and removing the American Auger machine, a 2-metre portion of the last part of the pipeline (i.e., 48 to 50 metres) has also been twisted.
As per the National Highways and Infrastructure Development Corporation Limited (NHIDCL), the drilling work is expected to be completed by November 30.
Addressing a press conference in Uttarkashi on Sunday, NHIDCL Managing Director Mahmood Ahmad said, "We have to drill around 86 metres to be done within four days, that is, by November 30. Hopefully, there will be no further hurdles and the work will be completed on time."
On the issue of escape passage, Mahmood Ahmad said, "We too thought about this issue. A committee has been formed over this and the findings will be released. As of today, our first goal is to safely bring out our 41 workers."
Thirty personnel of the engineer regiment are already on the spot to expedite the rescue operations.
For manual drilling, the Indian Army, along with civilians, will do rat boring inside the tunnel.
"To do manual drilling, the Indian Army along with civilians will dig out the debris inside the tunnel with weapons like hands, hammers and chisels, and then the pipe will be pushed forward from the platform built inside the pipe," an official said.