Day 7 Of Uttarkashi Tunnel Rescue Ops: Vertical Drilling To Be Considered After Another Pause Due To ‘Cracking Sound’

New Delhi: The six-day Uttarakhand tunnel rescue operation hit another roadblock and was paused once again on Friday afternoon due to debris falling on the drilling machine. Rescue work has not resumed since 4 pm.

The rescue teams were able to clear 24 meters of rubble from the collapsed under-construction tunnel in Uttarkashi, where 41 workers are trapped.

“During the execution of the work at around 2:45 pm, a large scale cracking sound was heard by officials and the team working inside the tunnel and created a panic situation in the tunnel as well as to the team working,” the National Highways & Infrastructure Development Corporation Limited (NHIDCL) said in a statement, adding that there’s a “strong possibility that a further collapse may take place and accordingly pipe pushing activity has been stopped”.

The American Auger machine was supposed to drill through debris at a faster rate, but it’s been slower than expected. Amid reports of technical issues with the machine, equipment similar to the 25-tonne American-made machine now in operation was also being flown in from Indore as “backup” for the rescue operation, according to reports.

On Friday, there were reports of the American auger machine used for drilling encountering a technical fault, adversely affecting the rescue efforts. However, the construction company denied it. Addressing reports of similar equipment to the American-made machine being flown in, an official construction company said that it was merely a “backup”, as per the news agency PTI.

A special team is now looking at the possibility of vertical drilling from the upper part of the tunnel if the horizontal drilling is not successful.
The rescue operation plan

It involves inserting six-meter sections of steel pipes successively as the machine drills through the debris, each pipe having a diameter of 800 or 900 mm. A specialized team is now examining the upper part of the tunnel to explore the possibility of vertical drilling. In the event that horizontal drilling in front of the tunnel proves unsuccessful, contingency plans involve attempting to reach the workers by drilling from the top of the mountain, as per India Today.

Khalkho said that the operation occasionally pauses due to factors such as fumes generated by the diesel-driven machine in confined spaces and vibrations induced in the tunnel during drilling. He told reporters that the machine is performing satisfactorily and anticipates an increase in speed as rescue workers become more accustomed to the process, as quoted by PTI.

An Indian Air Force C-17 aircraft transported nearly 22 tonnes of crucial equipment from Indore to Dehradun on Friday in the ongoing rescue operations at the Silkyara tunnel site in Uttarakhand.

Family members of the workers stuck in the tunnel and representatives from their home states have been visiting the rescue site. They are permitted to communicate with the trapped individuals through a pipe that extends through the rubble.

The round-the-clock rescue work is being carried out by 165 personnel from multiple agencies, including the National Disaster Response Force, State Disaster Response Force, Border Roads Organisation and the Indo-Tibetan Border Police, the State Emergency Operation Centre said.

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