Mon. Feb 26th, 2024

Rescuers said Tuesday are three metres away from the 41 construction workers who have been trapped inside the collapsed Silkayara tunnel in Uttarakhand’s Uttarkashi district over two weeks, raising hopes they may be freed by 5 pm on Tuesday.

Rescue operations underway on Day 17 of Uttarkashi rescue mission (AFP)(AFP)

The authorities said more than 55 metres of manual drilling has been completed, while nearly 3 metres remained. Officials also said the vertical drilling of the tunnel has been stopped for the time being.

Uttarakhand Secretary and Nodal Officer for Silkayara rescue operation Neeraj Khairwal said, “…As of now, we have pushed in the pipe 55.3 metres. Only a little more distance remains…It might be somewhere between 57-59 metres…It might take a few more hours if there are no more hurdles…By evening we are hoping…Let’s pray and hope for the best.”

After over 36 hours of drilling, the vertical drill machine has been stopped to aid the manual drilling of the tunnel. In the last update, the agencies had said that the vertical drill has bored over 51 metres of the ground, reaching the trapped workers soon.

As per the recent update, the vertical drilling in the Uttarkashi tunnel has been stopped to ensure that there is no hindrance in the manual drilling work going on below. Further, the process of changing the machines is also complete.

Only around 56 metres of rubble and soil is left to be drilled to reach the trapped workers, after which the 800 mm pipe will be installed in the drilled area. One by one, the workers will be lifted out of the tunnel using a rope and a bucket.

Previously, an American auger machine was brought in to conduct the horizontal drilling of the tunnel to rescue the workers, but the machine struck a metal grinder and broke down, beyond repair. A plasma machine was brought in to cut out the auger from the rubble and the soil.

At this rate, it is expected that the trapped workers will be rescued in 36-48 hours. Earlier, authorities had said that the rescue operations could be complete by Thursday this week. However, the Centre or state has not given any official timeline of the mission yet.

Uttarakhand tunnel rescue project: What next?

Rat hole mining experts were flown in to Uttarakhand’s Uttarkashi to supervise and guide the process of manual drilling inside the pits. It is expected that the manual drilling will be done in another 14 hours, said one of the rat hole mining expert.

Till now, experts have said that there are no metal obstructions detected in the last few metres of soil, which means that the drilling could be complete over the next one day.

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