Uttarakhand Tunnel: Mechanised Drilling Stopped, Workers to be Rescued Shortly

Earlier, Gaon Connection had reported on the families of some of these workers who belonged to Jharkhand and Uttar Pradesh and awaited the rescue of their breadwinners. After 17 days of surviving in the tunnel, the workers are expected to come out today and will be sent for medical examination. Details here.

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Uttarakhand Tunnel: Mechanised Drilling Stopped, Workers to be Rescued Shortly

A total of 41 workers who were trapped inside the Silkyara-Barkot tunnel in Uttarakhand’s Uttarkashi district are about to be rescued.

A total of 41 workers who were trapped inside the Silkyara-Barkot tunnel in Uttarakhand’s Uttarkashi district are about to be rescued. After drilling through the debris for 17 days, the drill machines were removed from the site and the remaining 15 metres of the debris will be removed manually to evacuate the workers safely.

The mechanised drills have been removed for two reasons: their drilling blades are getting stalled due to metallic pieces in the debris and the proximity of the drills with the workers on the other side of the debris can be risky.

"It is estimated that it will take 3-5 minutes to evacuate each of the 41 persons. The entire evacuation is expected to take 3-4 hours. Three teams of NDRF will go inside the tunnel to organise the evacuation. SDRF will provide support. Paramedics will also go inside the tunnel at the time of evacuation," Syed Ata Hasnain, member of the National Disaster Management Authority told the press.

It is reported that large metal pieces are hindering the machine drilling and the rescuers are now manually drilling through the remaining 15 metres using the rat-hole mining.

Rat hole mining is one of the methods of mining coal from narrow, horizontal passages — a practice that is prevalent in Meghalaya. Rat hole refers to the narrow holes of about a metre in width.

Expert miners from Uttar Pradesh have been asked to enter these rat holes and are using hand-held tools to dig through the debris.

It is important to mention that rat hole mining to extract minerals was banned by the National Green Tribunal (NGT) in 2014.

Also Read: “Survival Instinct The Biggest Motivator” — Medical Experts on Trapped Workers in Uttarakhand

The NGT had observed, “It is also informed that there are umpteen number of cases where by virtue of rat-hole mining, during the rainy season, water flooded into the mining areas resulting in death of many… individuals including employees/workers.”

So far, no medical complications have been reported in the trapped workers but to be trapped inside a tunnel, with no ray of sunlight, no sense of day or night, no proper food, and a fear of what lies ahead can be an extremely traumatic experience.

Earlier, Gaon Connection had talked to medical experts, including psychologists, who unanimously agreed that the human will to survive can withstand such challenges but caution has to be maintained.

Krishna Dutt, a Lucknow-based clinical psychologist, had told Gaon Connection that it would have been far more traumatic and difficult had there been a single worker struggling alone.

“Human psychology is meant to function better in a group. The moment we associate our suffering and pain with that of another person or a group of persons, we get slightly detached from trauma and perceive the situation from a different perspective. Bonding in challenging times can be a huge strength,” said Dutta.

Meanwhile, the primary purpose of the under construction Silkyara-Barkot tunnel is to connect Yamunotri and Gangotri valley in Uttarakhand to facilitate travelling during pilgrim season.

Once built, the tunnel passing beneath the Radi pass is to reduce the 25.6 kilometres long road journey to 4.5 kilometres through the tunnel. The location of the trapped workers is at a distance of about 200 metres from the mouth of the tunnel.

The plan to rescue the workers from the tunnel involves drilling a small but stable horizontal passage inside the tunnel to facilitate their safe exit. A landslide on the early morning of November 12 had caused a section of tunnel to collapse and the debris blocked the entrance of the tunnel leading to the workers getting trapped inside. The tunnel was being constructed as part of the Char Dham project.

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