A pipe to supply essential items reached the 41 workers trapped inside the under-construction Silkyara-Barkot tunnel in Uttarakhand on Monday, reported ANI.
A part of an under-construction tunnel on the Brahmakhal-Yamunotri national highway collapsed in the early hours of November 12, trapping the workers inside. The tunnel is part of the Char Dham Road Project to build all-weather roads in Uttarakhand.
On Monday, the rescue workers sent a 53-metre-long pipe to supply better food to the trapped workers, reported The Indian Express.
“This is just the first breakthrough and only the food pipe is inside,” rescue operation in-charge Colonel Deepak Patil told the newspaper. “The main job is to get our boys out using the 900 mm pipes. This is just one step, through which we can send them food, mobile phones, chargers, and also talk to them. We have made a list after talking to doctors, and are preparing food based on their suggestions.”
The rescue operation workers had failed twice in installing the six-inch pipe earlier on Monday because there was a rock they could not get through, National Highways and Infrastructure Development Corporation Limited Director Anshu Manish Khalkho told The Indian Express.
Earlier on Monday, the Centre had also come up with a five-point action plan to rescue the 41 workers trapped after an under-construction tunnel collapsed in Uttarakhand a week ago, reported NDTV.
Giving updates on the rescue operations, Transport and Highways Secretary Anurag Jain said five different agencies will work on different aspects of the five-point plan. These are the Oil and Natural Gas Corporation, Sutluj Jal Vidyut Nigam, Rail Vikas Nigam Limited, National Highways and Infrastructure Development Corporation Limited and Tehri Hydro Development Corporation Limited.
“The government has taken a decision to work on all fronts to save the precious lives,” he said.
Jain said that the Border Roads Organisation has created an access road to the tunnel under which the workers are trapped, reported The Indian Express. They have also built a platform at the top of the hill. The Rail Vikas Nigam Limited is set to drill a six-inch-wide vertical pipeline using the platform for the supply of essential items.
The Sutlej Jal Vidyut Nigam Limited will do the vertical drilling from the top of the tunnel to rescue the workers. As the Oil and Natural Gas Corporation has expertise in drilling work, it has also started work on vertical drilling from the Barkot side.
In addition, the efforts to drill horizontally through the debris blocking the tunnel at the Silkyara side will continue by the National Highways and Infrastructure Development Corporation Limited. The Indian Army has prepared a box culvert to facilitate this work.
Another small tunnel from the Barkot side will be drilled by the Tehri Hydroelectric Development Corporation.
According to Bhaskar Khulbe, former advisor to the prime minister, the workers are likely to be rescued in four to five days with concerted efforts of the agencies.
“But if the gods are kind enough, it could happen even earlier than that,” he said.
Union Minister Nitin Gadkari and Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami visited the spot on Sunday to review the rescue operations.
Gadkari said that if the machines that were brought in to undertake the drilling work properly, the workers could be rescued in two to three days.
“We are trying for a permanent solution with help from state institutions and Swiss agencies,” Gadkari was quoted as saying by India Today. “American experts were also contacted. We are bringing robotics. A Geological Survey of India team is trying to get satellite images to scan deep in the tunnel.”
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Narendra Modi held a discussion with Dhami on Monday about the rescue operations, the chief minister’s office said on social media.
“The prime minister said that necessary rescue equipment and resources are being provided by the central government,” according to the office. “With mutual coordination between central and state agencies, the workers will soon be evacuated safely.”
The rescue works were suspended on November 17, when a machine being used to drill through the rubble and push a pipe inside developed a snag. A high-performance drilling machine was brought in from Indore in Madhya Pradesh to cut through the rubble of the tunnel.