The situation involving 41 trapped workers in Uttarakhand's Silkyara region, caught under a collapsed tunnel, remains critical. Less than 20 meters of rock and debris separate the workers from rescue teams, leading to a strenuous race against time to free them. Officials indicated that significant developments were anticipated within the next 24 hours, potentially heralding a breakthrough in the ongoing rescue efforts.
Mahmood Ahmed, a senior official from Uttarakhand's Road and Transport Department, provided updates on the progress made. A drilling machine, the auger, began operations at 12:45 am and has successfully drilled 18 meters. Overall, 39 meters of drilling have been completed, with an estimated 57 meters required to reach the trapped workers. However, the most time-consuming aspect of the rescue operation is welding pipes to establish an escape route for the workers through the drilled holes.
Mr. Ahmed emphasized the importance of welding, explaining that while drilling doesn't consume much time, the welding process has taken nearly 15 hours to send 18 meters of pipes in three sections due to its complexity. Despite challenges like falling debris and machinery breakdowns, the rescue operation has continued.
Government agencies, including the Oil and Natural Gas Corporation, are deeply involved in the rescue mission. Various strategies are being pursued, including drilling vertically for an alternative escape route and initiating blasting and drilling from the far end of the unfinished tunnel, which spans nearly half a kilometer.
Rescuers have drilled smaller holes to supply the trapped workers with essential provisions like food, water, and medicine. An endoscopy camera was used to capture images of the trapped workers, showing over a dozen individuals wearing hardhats standing in a cavernous area.
Efforts are underway to boost the morale of the trapped workers. Family members have been brought to the rescue site, accommodated in hotels nearby, and in some cases, have been able to communicate with the trapped workers, intending to uplift their spirits.
The trapped workers, confined since November 12, received solid food after a week. Rescuers packed meals such as vegetable pulao and sent them down the smaller pipes, which are around six inches wide. Sufficient water, oxygen, and electricity are available to sustain the workers in the event of an extended rescue operation.
However, officials have refrained from providing a definite timeline for the rescue, citing technical challenges, challenging terrain, and unforeseen emergencies as variables influencing the operation. The situation remains precarious, requiring continuous efforts and coordination among multiple agencies to ensure the safe extraction of the workers.