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Uttarkashi tunnel: Families losing hope as rescue op enters day 7
A high-performance drilling machine airlifted from Indore arrived in Silkyara on Saturday, where its three parts will be assembled before it is deployed for drilling
With operations to rescue the workers stuck in the partially-collapsed Silkyara in Uttarkashi entering the seventh day, families of the stranded labourers are getting desperate. Those who have come to Silkyara from different parts of the country to wait for the safe evacuation of their kin have raised concerns about their well-being, saying their voices sounded feeble when they spoke to them on Saturday.
"All we are getting is assurances from the authorities that the trapped labourers will be rescued. It is nearly a week since they were trapped," a teary-eyed Haridwar Sharma, whose younger brother Sushil Sharma is among the trapped workers, told PTI.
Sharma, who has come from Rohtas district of Bihar, claimed the health of the trapped men is worsening. "There is no work going on inside the tunnel. Neither the company nor the government is doing anything," Sharma said.
Maharaj Singh Negi of Kotdwar in Uttarakhand, whose brother Gabbar Singh is among those trapped, said he is losing patience and hope with every hour. "I could not talk to my brother. He sounded very weak. He was hardly audible. The rescue work in the tunnel has come to a halt. Those trapped are also short of food and water. We have come to the end of our patience. What more can I say?" he said.
The operation to rescue labourers stuck in the partially-collapsed Silkyara tunnel has been on hold since Friday, 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.
Another high-performance drilling machine airlifted from Indore in Madhya Pradesh arrived in Silkyara on Saturday, where its three parts will be assembled before it is deployed for drilling, officials on the spot said.
Meanwhile, the number of workers who have been trapped inside the tunnel since Sunday has been revised to 41. The National Highways & Infrastructure Development Corporation Ltd (NHIDCL), which is constructing the tunnel through Navayuga Engineering Company Ltd, came to know about this discrepancy on Friday.
According to an earlier list issued by NHIDCL, 40 workers were trapped inside the tunnel after a part of it collapsed at around 5.30 am on Sunday. Deepak Kumar from Muzaffarpur district in Bihar was identified as the 41st person to be stuck in the tunnel.
A team of officials from the Centre, including ministry of road transport and highways additional secretary Mahmood Ahmed, PMO deputy secretary Mangesh Ghildiyal, geologist Varun Adhikari, and engineering expert Armando Capellan have arrived in Silkyara for an on-the-spot review of the rescue operations.
By the time the operation was halted on Friday afternoon, the heavy-duty auger machine had drilled up to 24 metres through the rubble spread over a 60-metre area inside the tunnel.
Around 2.45 pm on Friday, during the positioning of the fifth pipe, a loud cracking sound was heard in the tunnel after which the rescue operation was suspended, a statement issued by the NHIDCL late on Friday night said.
The sound created panic in the rescue team. The pipe-pushing activity was stopped after an expert involved with the project warned about the possibility of further collapse in the vicinity.
The tunnel is part of the ambitious Char Dham all-weather road project of the Central government being constructed under the NHIDCL. Chief minister Pushkar Singh Dhami held a meeting with officials at his residence in Dehradun for an update on the rescue operations.
Dhami said he hoped the state-of-the-art machines manufactured in the country and abroad would be successful in rescuing the labourers. "Under the guidance of the PMO, the state government is busy making all efforts to evacuate labourers trapped inside the tunnel area. We hope we will soon succeed in the mission," he said. "The government stands with the families of workers who are trapped. Their safe and timely evacuation is our priority."