Uttarkashi tunnel: Rescuers insert pipe to send more food to trapped workers
The breakthrough will help rescue personnel supply larger quantities of food and other essentials to 41 workers trapped in the tunnel for eight days
Rescuers on Monday pushed through a six-inch-wide pipeline through the rubble of a collapsed tunnel in Uttarakhand, a breakthrough that will help them supply larger quantities of food and other essentials to 41 workers trapped in the tunnel for eight days.
Earlier, a four-inch tube was being used to supply food such as dry fruit and medicines and oxygen into the section of the tunnel beyond the rubble. The new pipeline will allow food items like roti and sabzi (vegetables) to be sent to the workers.
National Highways and Infrastructure Development Corporation Ltd (NHIDCL) director Anshu Manish Kalkho called it the "first breakthrough" at the site. "We have sent the pipe 53 metres to the other side of the rubble and the trapped workers can hear and experience us," Kalkho said.
A portion of the under-construction tunnel in Silkyara village in Uttarkashi district, part of the ambitious Char Dham all-weather road project, collapsed owing to a landslide on 12 November, trapping 41 workers.
The operation to rescue labourers stuck in the partially-collapsed tunnel has been on hold since 17 November, when a US-made auger machine deployed to drill and push in pipes through the rubble to prepare an escape passage for the trapped workers developed a snag.
On Sunday 19 November, efforts were launched to build an access road at the top of the hill above the tunnel for initiating vertical drilling to reach the 41 workers, with authorities hopeful that a platform to drill the hole might be ready by Sunday afternoon.
On Monday, officials said a road to the top of the hill had been laid in a single day for digging a vertical shaft down into the tunnel. Also, the Tehri Hydroelectric Development Corporation was set to begin “micro tunneling” on Sunday night from the Barkot end of the under-construction tunnel.
But after a visit to the site Sunday, Union road transport minister Nitin Gadkari said boring horizontally through the debris with the huge auger machine appeared to be the best bet, and said he anticipated a breakthrough in the next "two-and-a-half days".