“Focus On Horizontal Drilling, Will Start From Top Too”: Officials On Tunnel Rescue

New Delhi:

The fresh five-point rescue plan for the 41 men trapped in a tunnel in Uttarakhand is focussing on the horizontal drilling that will create a shaft, Lt Gen Syed Ata Hasnain, a member of NDMA (National Disaster Management Authority), told reporters today. He, however, refused to set a time frame for the rescue.

“This is not an easy challenge, so we are exploring every option. All the teams are working on it, that is the only assurance I can give. Can’t establish the timeframe,” he said.

A tunnel-boring machine is being used from the front, and they are also trying to use blast to expand the mouth of the tunnel to insert a micro-boring machine inside, he said, underscoring that the focus right now is on “saving lives”.

But the delay, he assured, will not pose a danger to the men, who have been trapped in the tunnel following a landslide on November 12.

“There is sufficient water and oxygen inside. Power and ration were made available,” he said.

“There’s ample space inside. There is approximately 2 km space. Lighting is available inside. A 4- inch pipe was available which didn’t get destroyed so we had a lifeline,” he said at the press conference. Through this pipe, survival ration was pushed through air compression. Efforts have been to push medicine, he said.

To ensure the workers’ emotional well-being, the families of a few workers have been brought in also.

“The families have been accommodated in the hotels in a built-up area. In one or two cases, they were even able to talk through it… the more the families talk to them, the better morale will be,” he said.

The men have been trapped after a portion of the 4.5-km tunnel on the Brahmakhal-Yamunotri National Highway collapsed. The tunnel — meant to join Silkyara and Dandalgaon in Uttarkashi — is part of the Char Dham project.

The workers, who managed to escape unscathed, are in a 400-meter buffer zone that lies behind 200 meters of rocky debris. Packages of food and water are being passed to them through a pipe.

Yesterday, after a wider pipe was installed, the men got their first hot meal in days. Khichdi in bottles were passed down the pipe through air compression.

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