Manual Drilling To Save Tunnel Workers Likely Today, But May Take Days, Even Weeks

New Delhi:
The 41 workers trapped in an Uttarakhand tunnel for 15 days were dealt another blow when officials said that the giant drill working on their rescue has collapsed. Rescuers will now start manual drilling, which could take several days, even weeks.

Here are 10 updates on the Uttarakhand tunnel rescue operation:

  1. The blades of the auger machine got stuck in the debris as it was drilling through the rubble of the collapsed Silkyara tunnel.

  2. The heavy drill brought in from America to break through nearly 60 meters of debris was damaged on Friday and is now being pulled out, officials said, adding the last 10-15 metres would have to be broken with hand-held power tools.

  3. Manual drilling would involve a worker entering the already bored stretch of the rescue passage, drilling for a brief period in the confined space, and then coming out to let someone else take over.

  4. Trapped for over 360 hours, the 41 men may now have to wait for several more days, maybe weeks, before they are brought out safely.  Authorities have said they are safe, with access to light, oxygen, food, water and medicines.

  5. Advising patience, National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) member Lt Gen (retd) Syed Ata Hasnain said, “This operation could take a long time. When you are working on a mountain, everything is unpredictable. We never gave any timeline.”

  6. At the disaster site, international tunnelling expert Arnold Dix promised that the workers would be out “by Christmas”, which is still a month away.

  7. Manual drilling is expected to begin today, but only after the 25-tonne auger drilling machine has been cut off the debris. Uttarakhand Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami said that a plasma cutter is being airlifted from Hyderabad to remove the stuck rotary blades.

  8. Meanwhile, a protection umbrella is being laid for the workers who will take up the challenge of manual drilling. A landline is also being set up for the trapped men to allow them to talk and keep in touch with their families.

  9. Forty-one ambulances remain on standby at the tunnel’s entrance, ready to whisk the workers away to the Chinyalisaur Community Health Centre. A designated ward has also been set up with 41 oxygen-equipped beds, prepared to provide each worker with prompt medical care.

  10. Situated about 30 km from Uttarkashi and a seven-hour drive from Dehradun, the Silkyara tunnel is an integral part of the central government’s Char Dham all-weather road project.

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