Anxiety mounts for families of workers trapped at Uttarkashi Tunnel collapse site, drilling work to resume today

Rescue workers at Uttarkashi Tunnel collapse in Uttarakhand on November 17, 2023.

As relatives of 40 workers trapped in the Silkyara tunnel wait for them to come out, a relative of a worker trapped inside the tunnel said that despite assurances nothing seemed to be happening.

Deepak Kumar (23), a resident of Bihar’s Muzzaffarpur is one of the workers trapped inside the tunnel.

Deepak’s maternal uncle Abhay Kumar Singh told ANI that he had spoken to Deepak through the pipeline at 6 pm on Friday evening.

“My nephew Deepak Kumar is trapped here. Today we have been here for 4 days and every day we are assured that they will be taken out today. The machine has been closed since yesterday. When I talked to him yesterday evening, he said that everything is fine. There is some problem of urination though inside the tunnel,” Abhay Kumar Singh said.

He further said that everyone at Deepak’s home is worried and has stopped eating food.

“Calls are coming from home every day; what answers should I give to them? Everyone at home is worried. Everyone has stopped eating and drinking for a week. I have given assurance at home but nothing is happening here,” he added. The ongoing drilling work to reach the 40 trapped workers inside the Silkyara tunnel was halted on Saturday after the rescuers bored 25 metres into the rubble, a top official said.

The workers have been trapped for six days, counting Saturday, after a portion of the under-construction Silkyara tunnel caved in on November 12.

Speaking to ANI over the telephone, Anshu Manish Khulko, director of the tunnel-making company, NHIDCL, said the drilling work to reach the trapped workers is suspended for now.

Asked if the drilling work was stopped due to a snag in the machine being used in the rescue operation, Mr. Khulko added, “There was no fault in the machine.”

He also said the managing director of NHIDCL is expected to reach the incident site on Saturday and will share further details after taking stock of the ongoing rescue work.

On Friday, the Auger machine engaged in the drilling work stopped functioning after it hit a rock face. However, the machine started working again in the afternoon. Another heavy-duty drilling machine requisitioned from Indore is likely to reach the tunnel site later on Saturday. 

The under-construction tunnel between Silkyara and Dandalgaon on the Brahmakhal-Yamunotri national highway collapsed in the early hours of November 12.

In a statement released to media on Friday, the National Highways & Infrastructure Development Corporation Limited, the firm building the tunnel, said excavation with shotcreting (concrete spraying) for 40 metres of the collapsed tunnel is under progress and a cavity has been formed 10 metre above the crown at both left and right side, and a chimney formation has started along the tunnel.

An additional shotcrete machine has been shifted from RVNL Package-lll to work site, the statement added.

The 4531-metre Silkyara Tunnel is part of the Chardham Project of Ministry of Road Transport and Highways and will link the Gangotri and Yamunotri axis under the Radi pass area.

The tunnel is being constructed by NHIDCL through Navayuga Engineering Company Ltd at a cost of ₹853.79 crore

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