New Delhi: Rescue teams in Uttarakhand are battling against time to evacuate 41 construction workers who have been trapped under debris for the last 8 days following the collapse of an under-construction tunnel on the Char Dham all-weather highway project in Uttarkashi.
An international team of tunnelling experts arrived at the site on Monday. As the rescue operation entered the ninth day, International Tunnelling and Underground Space Association president Arnold Dix was among the experts at the site to oversee the operation.
Reportedly, the vertical drilling was halted on the evening of November 19 after hitting a snag, to ensure the safety of the workers trapped inside. It is expected that the workers will be rescued in the next 4-5 days, seeing the progress of the vertical drilling.
Senior officials, including those from the PMO who visited the site on Nov. 18, are still stationed in Silkyara to oversee the operations aimed at the safe evacuation of the trapped workers at the earliest.
Meanwhile, a map has emerged that points to an alleged serious lapse on the part of the company involved in its construction. According to the Standard Operating Procedure, all tunnels over 3 km long are supposed to have an escape route to rescue people in case there is a calamity. According to media reports, the map proves that such an escape route was also planned for the 4.5 km Silkyara tunnel, but never executed.
The Silkyara tunnel, about 30 km from the district headquarters of Uttarkashi and a seven-hour drive from the Uttarakhand capital Dehradun, is part of the ambitious Char Dham all-weather road project of the Central Government. The labourers have been trapped since November 12 morning.
The tunnel, once completed, will reduce the travel distance between Uttarkashi and Yamunotri by 26 km.