Day 11: Rescue work enters final stretch at Silkyara tunnel, hopes high

Day 11: Rescue work enters final stretch at Silkyara tunnel, hopes high

Uttarkashi/New Delhi, Nov 22 (PTI) Ambulances were on standby and doctors summoned to the disaster site as a multi-agency effort to rescue 41 men trapped in the Silkyara tunnel appeared close to success on Wednesday evening.

At a press briefing around 4 pm, officials at Silkyara said another six-metre section of the rescue pipe had been inserted as an auger machine drilled through debris of the collapsed stretch of the tunnel.

Going by the figures given earlier in the day, this indicated that 45 metre of the escape passage had been created – out of the estimated 57 metres stretch of debris beyond which the worker are trapped for more than 10 days.

In Delhi, a press release reporting the progress till 2 pm said the steel pipe had been inserted up to the 42-metre mark. It said 67 per cent of the auger drilling was completed.

Once the pipe, which is a little under a metre wide is inserted, workers can crawl out through it.

A team of 15 doctors, including chest specialist, has been deployed at the site in anticipation of the evacuation. Twelve ambulances were on standby at the spot, and the plan was to keep a fleet of 40 ready.

A helicopter was also expected to be earmarked for the operation.

A makeshift eight-bed hospital has been set up in the vicinity of the under-construction tunnel on the Char Dham route.

At the Silkyara briefing, Bhaskar Khulbe, a former advisor with the Prime Minister’s Office, was upbeat, saying that another six-metre section of the rescue pipe had been inserted over the past hour.

'Hopefully the next two-three hours will be comfortable in terms of assembling for the next push and attaining what all of us are waiting for,” he said, referring to the continuing process of pushing in steel pipe sections. He predicted 'similar good news' at a press briefing later in the evening.

NHIDCL MD Mahmood Ahmed and Khulbe had told reporters earlier in the day that 39 metres had been drilled through the rubble to lay three 800-mm wide pipes. The stretch between 40 metres and 50 metres was the “most crucial,' they said.

On the alternative plan, Ahmed said about eight metres of horizontal drilling had take from the Barkot end of the tunnel – a much longer process that could take several days.

Ahmed had said at least three more steel pipes of six-metre length each need to be laid through the rubble to reach the trapped workers from the Silkyara end.

Drilling from the Silkyara-end through the rubble was put on hold Friday afternoon when the American-made auger machine encountered a hard obstacle, creating vibrations in the tunnel that caused safety concerns.

The drilling resumed late Tuesday.

Meanwhile, on Monday, rescue agencies also pushed in a six-inch pipe through the rubble for better communication with the workers, and sending them food. Earlier, this was done through an existing four-inch pipe.

A microphone and a speaker were sent through the new lifeline, apart from medicines, towels, shirts and underwear.

Asked to spell out a timeline for the evacuation, Khulbe had said earlier, 'We hope to celebrate Bagwal with them', possibly meaning Igas, a festival celebrated in the Garhwal region after Diwali.

This year Igas will be celebrated on Thursday.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke to Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami once again on Wednesday morning for updates on the rescue operation.

First visuals of the trapped workers were captured early Tuesday with the help of an endoscopic camera sent through the new pipeline.

In a statement, the government said the second lifeline was functioning efficiently, ensuring an ample supply of food items like rotis, sabzi, khichdi, daliya, oranges, and bananas in the tunnel.

It said a modified communication system with wire connectivity has been developed by rescue agencies NDRF and SDRF, and people inside reported in the morning that they are safe. PTI ALM ALK SMN RHL BKS CS ANZ BAL ASH ASH

Disclaimer: This story is auto-generated feed.

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