November 27, 2023
DEHRADUN – More than 48 hours after the work on horizontal escape passage at the collapsed Silkyara tunnel site was abandoned, rescuers began vertical drilling on a war footing to evacuate 41 workers trapped inside for more than 14 days.
Officials said it would take four days to reach workers through vertical escape passage.
The officials overseeing the rescue operation at the accident site informed on Sunday that as was planned earlier, Satluj Jal Vidyut Nigam Limited (SJVNL) is on the job to create a 1.2 metres diameter vertical escape passage. Nearly 86 metres of escape passage will be required, from a chainage distance of 305 metres, to reach the workers from top of the tunnel.
“We asked SJVNL and hope it will be able to drill 86 metres passage from chainage point at 305 meters and open the tunnel in the next four days as we have kept the 100 hours deadline for it,” said Mahmood Ahmed, additional secretary union Ministry of Road Transport and Highways (MoRTH) talking to the media.
Ahmed said although drilling will take around 70 hours but four days deadline for escape passage from top of the tunnel includes time needed to switch over from the present machime to another. “Two machines will be required for drilling 86 metres passage of 1.2 metres diameters as one machine can drill only 40 metres” he added.
Meanwhile, the work on the horizontal escape passage remained hampered more than 48 hours after it was stopped on Friday evening. Rescue officials said experts and technicians were still trying to take out the broken shaft and broken blades of the auger machine stuck inside the collapsed tunnel rubble.
“Around 13 meters of the stuck shaft still remains inside the debris. All efforts are being made to clear it maximum by Monday morning. Plasma cutter, laser cutter and glass cutter are being used to cut and remove stuck parts of the machine from the debris” said Neeraj Khairwal, Uttarakhand government nodal officer deployed for rescue operation.
Khairwal informed that a laser cutting machine was flown from DRDO Hyderabad while a plasma cutter was brought from Chandigarh on Saturday night. Besides, a team of ONGC experts from Rajamundry was also flown down to the tunnel sites to expedite disposal of trapped auger machine parts.
“We are getting the desired result as new equipment has 40 per cent more efficiency. It’s very tough and challenging as metal cutting work is being done inside the 800 mm diameter steel pipeline with equipment like plasma cutter, laser and gas cutters that generate huge heat and temperature. Hope you understand the difficult situation in which the work is being done to clear broken auger machine parts and metal obstructions under the debris,” said Khairwal.