Rescuers at the collapsed Silkyara Tunnel on Tuesday achieved big success as they were able to drill four metre horizontal escape passage further, hitherto kept on hold for nearly three days. Uttarakhand Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami said “breakthrough is close” as officials maintained rat mining method was a great help for speedy drilling.
Rescuers were able to resume manual horizontal drilling on late evening of Monday leading to completion of 52 metre of the passage by Tuesday morning. This is four metre more than 48 metre work completion done earlier. Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami who is at the rescue and relief work site since today morning confirmed this. Dhami said two more metre of work is almost complete as steel pipeline is being pushed into the escape passage.
“Almost 52 metre drilling of horizontal passage is completed. We are hopeful that another two metre work will be over soon with net passage length of 54 metre. After that, required passage length will be of the size of one more six-metre steel pipe. We hope to achieve breakthrough once last steel pipe is pushed (sic),” said Dhami.
It’s significant that rescuers were unable to get breakthrough in drilling a length of 60 metre escape passage for the past more than 16 days due to reccuring hurdles created by heavy steel girdles and iron rods.
Dhami added, “Manual drilling of the passage is moving ahead smoothly as no hard obstructions are coming in the way. Only cement blocks are being found by the miners working hard to drill escape passage.”
Earlier, Uttarakhand government secretary and nodal officer for the rescue operation Neeraj Khairwal informed that work for cutting broken blades and shaft head of the auger machine stuck in the pipe completed on late evening of Monday and manual drilling was started by the rat miners.
Khairwal said, as per the plan drilling and excavation of the tunnel debris will be followed by pushing steel pipes in the passage. Interestingly, hopes for early evacuation of the trapped workers were raised mainly after the team of six rat-miners took the onus of manual drilling yesterday.
According to the rat-miners, despite iron rods and obstacles coming in the way they have removed them successfully and will be able to reach stranded people on the other side of the debris soon.
Meanwhile, the rescue operation officials on the ground and Uttarkashi district administration have began exercise and mockdrill to bring out 41 workers trapped inside the tunnel amidst hope that horizontal escape passage work will be completed earlier than the given four days deadline. Officials said preparations are being made as to how NDRF men will reach the workers through escape passage and evacuate them.
Medical, SDRF and police teams have been deployed to ferry rescued workers for relief and medical examination to a nearby makeshift hospital created by the district administration.