Snag set right, drilling to resume at Silkyara tunnel: Officials

Snag set right, drilling to resume at Silkyara tunnel: Officials

Uttarkashi, Nov 24 (PTI) Rescue workers were set to begin drilling at the collapsed Silkyara tunnel Friday after putting it on hold for several hours, following a snag that delayed the operation to evacuate 41 men trapped inside for 12 days, officials said.

Officials, at an afternoon news briefing, said that the technical problem that stalled the drilling on Wednesday had been set right, and the operation would begin in the next couple of hours.

The boring would resume after the another section of steel pipes is welded to the chute already pushed through, they said.

A ground penetrating radar has indicated that there are no metal hurdles up to five metres ahead of the passage bored through the debris of the tunnel’s collapsed portion.

There is no technical problem with the auger machine, but the rescue workers needed to strengthen the platform on which it is mounted, the officials said.

The machine had drilled up to 48 metres in the rubble to create the escape passage. The steel pipe -- the pathway to evacuation -- has been inserted up to 46.8 metres, reporters were told at the briefing addressed by NHIDCL Managing Director Mahmood Ahmed and state’s nodal Neeraj Khairwal.

They said two more six-metre sections of the pipe are to be inserted before they reach the trapped workers.

Earlier in the morning, former advisor to the Prime Minister's Office Bhaskar Khulbe had said the boring through the rubble with an auger was likely to resume by 11.30 am.

“We have 12-14 metres more to go. And I hope if all goes well we might conclude the operation by Friday evening,' he said.

The drilling, however, didn’t begin at the time predicted by Khulbe.

The drilling machine's platform has been revamped and strengthened by shotcreting through the night, Khulbe told reporters at Silkyara.

As the America-made auger machine drill through the debris, sections of 800 mm diameter steel pipes are being inserted.

The trapped workers will be brought out through the chute.

“Sufficient arrangements have been made to take the trapped workers after their evacuation under police escort through a green corridor to hospitals which have been readied for their treatment in isolation,' Garhwal range IG KS Nagnyal told PTI.

According to medical experts, the treatment of the workers in isolation for a few days is a must as they will come out after days of confinement in a closed space, he said.

Union Minister of State for Road Transport and Highways Gen VK Singh who has been camping in Uttarkashi since Thursday also arrived at Silkyara to take stock of rescue operations.

Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami has also been camping at Matli since Thursday to closely monitor the rescue operations.

A temporary camp of the chief minister's office has been set up there to help him perform his daily duties.

The NDRF conducted a mock drill on how it would take its wheeled stretchers through the chute being prepared to rescue the trapped workers.

An NDRF personnel went through the passage, pushing a wheeled stretcher tied to a rope at the end of the tunnel and was pulled back up after completing the stretch.

He said there was enough room inside the pipes and he had no difficulty breathing during the exercise.

A post-rescue plan is also ready with 41 ambulances waiting outside the tunnel to rush workers after their evacuation to Chinyalisaur CHC where a separate ward has been set up with 41 oxygen-supported beds for them.

Similar arrangements have also been made for them at Uttarkashi district hospital. Trauma and ICU beds have also been readied for them at AIIMS, Rishikesh where they could also be airlifted if required. PTI ALM ALK ASH NB

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