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Uttarkashi: International tunnelling experts at rescue site as operation enters day 9

Uttarkashi, Nov 20, 2023: As the rescuers raced against time to evacuate the 41 workers trapped in an under-construction tunnel in Uttarakhand’s Uttarkashi, an international team of tunnelling experts arrived at the site on Monday. As the rescue operation entered the ninth day, International Tunnelling and Underground Space Association president Arnold Dix was among the experts at the site to oversee the operation.



As the rescue operation entered the ninth day, here’s a breakdown of how these agencies have been tasked with different responsibilities to reach out to the trapped workers and rescue them.

The Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) has undertaken the task of vertical drilling at the Barkot end of the Silkyara tunnel on the Char Dham route, part of which collapsed on November 12, sources said. The ONGC drilling head is set to visit the site on Monday and a report is expected to be submitted the very next day.

The Border Roads Organisation (BRO) will then finalise the alignment of the road based on the ONGC report by November 22 (Wednesday).

Vertical drilling at the Silkyara end has been assigned to the Rail Vikas Nigam Limited (RVNL). The BRO completed 970 metres of the access road leading to the tunnel out of the total planned 1,150 metres on Sunday. The remaining distance is expected to be covered by Monday.

The RVNL has placed a request for an electric connection, which the district administration is evaluating. The vertical drilling is scheduled to be completed by November 26 (Sunday), according to sources.

They added the RVNL has also planned for a 170-metre tunnel to be constructed using specific equipment, which will reach the site by November 21 (Tuesday). The setup is expected to be completed by November 23 (Thursday).

Water resources have been identified with recycling options and the district magistrate’s permission is required to use the state government pipe.

Sources said that THDC India Ltd has been entrusted with a 483-metre tunnel construction after they completed a site assessment and manpower mobilisation. The tunnel boring will commence from Monday.

The National Highways and Infrastructure Development Corporation Ltd. (NHIDCL) has the responsibility of strengthening the tunnel and construction of an escape route, sources said. A 150 mm steel pipe is being set up through the debris for emergency services, and a third attempt for the same is underway.

The National Hydroelectric Power Corporation (NHPC) and the Satluj Jal Vidyut Nigam Limited (SJVNL) have been tasked with drilling a 1-1.2 metre-diameter borehole at the Silkyara end. The work is set to begin on Monday.

The Indian Army are on-site to monitor the progress. A drone has arrived at the tunnel site, which will help with aerial monitoring and facilitate the efficient completion of the project operation.

IAS officer Neeraj Khairwal, who has been appointed as the nodal officer by the Uttarakhand government to coordinate with various central agencies, is expected to reach the Silkyara tunnel today.


The government was sending multivitamins, antidepressants and dry fruits to the 41 workers, Road, Transport and Highways Secretary Anurag Jain said on Sunday.

The rescue operation was suspended on Friday afternoon when a US-made auger machine, deployed to drill and push in pipes through the rubble to prepare an escape passage for the workers, developed a snag that exacerbated the anxiety.

By the time drilling was halted, the auger machine had drilled up to 40 metres through the rubble, spread over a 60-metre area inside the tunnel. Seven pipes having a diameter of 800 mm have been inserted.

A six-inch diameter pipe was yet to reach the workers, which will ensure supplies of proper food for them.

After a visit to the site on Sunday, Union Road Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari said boring horizontally through the debris with the huge auger machine appeared to be the best bet. He anticipated a breakthrough in two and a half days.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke to Uttarakhand Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami over the phone about the ongoing relief and rescue operation to rescue the workers.

The Prime Minister said the workers will be evacuated safely with mutual coordination between the central and state agencies. He said there was a need to maintain the morale of the trapped workers.

Giving information about the situation, Dhami said that the state and central agencies were engaged in relief and rescue work with mutual coordination and promptness. He stressed the workers trapped in the tunnel were safe.

The government has sought a report from all the agencies about the development work so far in the rescue operation.

The tunnel is being constructed under the National Highways and Infrastructure Development Corporation Limited (NHIDCL). It is a part of the ambitious Char Dham all-weather road project of the central government.

Courtesy: India Today