Uttarkashi: Drilling Machine Airlifted to Help Tunnel Collapse Victims

The new machine is being put into service amid apprehension by workers at the site about the progress of the multi-agency rescue operations

Dehradun: Work on the drilling of the escape passage that started late on Tuesday night to rescue 40 workers trapped in the Uttarkashi tunnel collapse on Yamunotri Highway was stopped at 3 am on Wednesday. A heavy drilling machine was airlifted from Delhi to replace the "failed" equipment that was earlier being used for the rescue operations, officials said.

The new powerful augur machine that landed at the Chinyalisaur helipad over 30 km from the tunnel on the Chardham route is being put into service amid apprehension by workers at the site about the progress of the multi-agency rescue operations.

Officials present on the ground at the Silkayara village site, where the tunnel collapsed, said that parts of the powerful horizontal drilling machine will be assembled at the site. The replacement machine came in two parts on an Indian Air Force Hercules aircraft to Chinyalisaur on Wednesday afternoon and was being transported by road to the tunnel. According to officials, it will take about 3–4 hours to reach the accident site.

"Parts of the new high-penetration machine have landed at Chinyalisaur Airstrip. These will soon be shifted to the tunnel site for assembling the machine in the next 3–4 hours. Once the machine is ready, rescue operations will be expedited soon," said Uttarkashi superintendent of police Arpan Yaduvanshi.

According to district administration officials, the new high-penetration machine can drill through 4-5 metres per hour, compared to the existing machine’s one-metre-per-hour capacity of the machines that were used earlier.

According to the officials managing the rescue operations, drilling work started late on Tuesday and was aborted early in the morning at around 3 am on Wednesday as it caused some technical problems. Officials said the auger machine that was being used was slow in drilling and failed to serve the purpose of making an escape passage to reach the workers.

Tunnel construction nodal agency NHIDCL director Anju Manish said experts and rescue teams have been working round the clock for the past three days to save the lives of trapped workers.

“Here rock is fragile. The more we try to drill inside, the more debris gets deposited. We have already moved forward to insert 800-mm-diameter steel pipes in the debris, but there were some difficulties with it. The latest heavy drilling machine parts have been flown from Delhi," said the NHIDCL director, adding, "The penetration rate of the new machine is 4-5 metres per hour. We will be able to penetrate and place steel pipes through 50 metres of debris in 10–12 hours at this pace. It’s difficult to give any definite time, but we are trying to rescue the trapped worker as early as possible. The fragile nature of the rocks is causing problems in the rescue operation. We had succeeded in drilling through 21 metres of debris on the first day, but it went in vain. Fresh debris fell and subverted it.”

As many as 40 workers are trapped in the Yamunotri National Highway tunnel that collapsed at its Silkyara village end on November 12 early in the morning owing to a landslide. The under-construction 4.5 km tunnel lying between Dharasu and Barkot suburbs is part of the Chardham all-weather road project in Uttarakhand, funded by the Central government.

As the rescuers scramble to create the escape passage, workers trapped inside the collapsed tunnel are reported feeling sick and stressed. They have complained of fever, cough and cold, restlessness and a loss of confidence.

( Source : Deccan Chronicle. )
Next Story