First visuals of the trapped workers emerge as the rescue team tries to establish contact with them. (ANI)
Uttarkashi: On the tenth day of rescue operations at the Silkyara tunnel collapse site in Uttarkashi, Uttarakhand, a significant milestone was achieved after an endoscopy camera was successfully inserted into the collapsed section. First visuals of the trapped workers emerge as the rescue team tries to establish contact with them. The endoscopic flexi camera showed the workers speaking to the rescue teams informing them that they were healthy.
The rescue team has begun the process of laying a pipeline inside the Silkyara Tunnel, and communication was established with indvidual workers to get a health update from them.
Another significant milestone was achieved as rescuers reached the tunnel with a vertical drilling machine from the upper part of the hill above the tunnel. This development comes as 41 labourers remain trapped inside the tunnel.
It took 13 hours and 3 vehicles to bring this machine, Harbanz, the driver who brought parts of the drilling machine, told ANI.
This follows a breakthrough on the ninth day of rescue operations when a six-inch-wide pipeline was pushed through the rubble of the collapsed portion, creating an alternative lifeline for the stranded workers. For the first time since the incident, hot Khichdi was sent to the workers through this pipeline.
The collapse occurred on November 12 during the construction of a tunnel from Silkyara to Barkot, trapping 41 labourers due to a muck fall in a 60-metre stretch on the Silkyara side of the tunnel. The workers are believed to be trapped in a 2 km-built tunnel portion, which is complete with concrete work that provides safety to the workers. This portion of the tunnel has access to electricity and water, and food items and medicines are being provided through a 4-inch compressor pipeline.
On Monday, rescue operation in-charge Colonel Deepak Patil said that although their 'main challenge' is evacuating trapped men through a 900 mm pipe, which will be attempted later, food, mobiles, and chargers will be sent inside the tunnel through the 6-inch lifeline.
On what food items will be sent to trapped labourers, he said that, keeping in mind the condition of the labourers, a list has been prepared with the help of doctors on available food options.
"We are bringing plastic cylindrical bottles with wide mouths so that we can send bananas, apples, Khichdi, and Daliya," he added.
Rescuers filled Khichdi in cylindrical bottles to be sent to the stranded workers.
Hemant, the cook who prepared the Khichdi for the trapped labourers, said that this is the first time a hot meal is being sent to the workers.
"This food will be sent inside the tunnel. This is the first time a hot meal is being sent. We are sending Khichdi. We are only preparing the food which we have been recommended," he said.
Meanwhile, Uttarakhand Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami said that the work of evacuating the workers trapped is going on at a fast pace and if during this period, any relative of the trapped persons arrives at the site, the government will make arrangements for their travel, accommodation and food.
On Monday, the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways in a release said that rescue operations are continuing in full swing to save the trapped workers and constant communication is being maintained with efforts to keep up the morale of the workers trapped in the two km-built tunnel portion.
The release said Rail Vikas Nigam Limited (RVNL) is working on another vertical pipeline for the supply of essential items. It said various government agencies have been involved in the rescue operation and have been assigned specific tasks.
It said the first machine of SJVNL for the construction of the vertical rescue tunnel has already reached the tunnel site and operations are being commenced post-completion of the access road by the Border Roads Organisation.
The release said it was decided to lay a 900 mm pipe through the muck as it was the best and fastest possible solution as per the experts' advice.
However, on November 17, because of ground movement, it became unsafe to continue with this option without securing the structure. Considering the lives involved, it was decided to move on all possible fronts together so that the workers can be rescued as early as possible.
The area in which the workers are trapped is 8.5 metres high and 2 km long. "This is the built-up portion of the tunnel where concreting work has been done providing safety to the labourers. Electricity and water are also available in this portion of the tunnel," the release said.
Five options were decided and five different agencies were detailed to carry out these options.
The release said that NHIDCL will continue to drill from Silkyara end after working safety arrangements. To facilitate this Army has prepared the box culvert. A canopy framework is being made to ensure workers' safety.
On Monday, the Director of National Highways and Infrastructure Development Corporation (NHIDCL), Anshu Manish Khulko, said there was an atmosphere of joy among the trapped labourers after they came to know about the installation of a 6-inch pipe in the tunnel.