Uttarkashi: 2nd lifeline pipe enters Silkyara tunnel

Till now, a four-inch tube was being used to supply oxygen and other survival items such as medicines and dry fruits into the tunnel.

Published: 21st November 2023 08:08 AM  |   Last Updated: 21st November 2023 08:08 AM   |  A+A-

A high-performance drilling machine being brought for rescue operation after a portion of an under-construction tunnel collapsed in Uttarkashi district, Monday, Nov. 20, 2023. (PTI)

Express News Service

DEHRADUN: In a big relief to the 41 labourers trapped in the collapsed under-construction tunnel at Silkyara in Uttarakhand’s Uttarkashi district for the past nine days, engineers on Monday managed to put a six-inch lifeline pipe inside the tunnel, through the rubble. Through this pipe, more food items, fruits, eggs, beverages and proper food can be sent to the labourers trapped inside. 

Till now, a four-inch tube was being used to supply oxygen and other survival items such as medicines and dry fruits into the tunnel. According to officials, the bigger pipe inserted on Monday may also give live visuals of the workers trapped inside. 

An IAF aircraft airlifts 36 tonnes of
critical equipment for the rescue
operations at the under-construction
tunnel in Uttarakhand on Monday | PTI

“All workers inside the tunnel are safe. Only roasted chana, salt, medicines, toffee, chocolate, etc were being sent through the old pipe. But more food items including fruits, eggs etc can be sent to the labourers through the new pipe,” said Anshu Manish Khalkho, director, National Highway Infrastructure Development Corporation, who termed the insertion of the new pipe as the ‘first breakthrough’. “We have sent the pipe 53 metres to the other side of the rubble and the trapped workers can hear and experience us,” he said.

The NHIDCL director said the next step is to remove the drill bit from the pipe. ‘Once that is done food, medicines and other essentials will start being sent to the trapped workers,” Khalkho said. Drones and robots from the Defence Research and Development Organisation have also been brought to the site to look into the possibility of other escape routes for the trapped labourers.

Col Deepak Patil, in-charge of the rescue and relief operation, told this newspaper: “After being suspended for three days, the drilling work resumed on Sunday night. At the same time, the pipes of food and oxygen supply to the labourers trapped inside have been covered with concrete hume pipes. Even if there is a landslide due to some reason, it will not disrupt the supply of food items and oxygen.”

The food items will be packed in plastic bottles with wide mouths, he said. Also mobile phones and chargers could be sent to the workers. “All this will have good psychological impact on them,” he added.
International tunnelling expert Arnold Dix also reached the disaster site to review rescue efforts. He heads the Geneva-based International Tunnelling and Underground Space Association.

A spokesman for the camp office in Silkyara said, “A place has been chosen for drilling above the tunnel. The setup is likely to happen in the next 24 hours.” Meanwhile, the Uttarakhand High Court on Monday took note of a PIL on the disaster. It has asked the state government to respond within 48 hours. 

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