At least 40 workers have been trapped underground for over 96 hours after the road tunnel they were building in Uttarakhand collapsed. Rescuers have been removing the debris since Sunday morning using a variety of drills and excavators to create an escape tunnel for the workers, who are all alive.
Steel pipes are being used to supply oxygen and small food items into the tunnel.
Heavy drilling equipment has been flown in from Delhi which can clear nearly 5 metres of debris every hour. The drill is commonly used to form boreholes in rock, soil, and other subsurface materials.
It is an effective substitute for jobs that may require hours if done manually. It is usually used to drill holes ranging between 1 metre to 30 metres.
The drill has a rotational blade, called auger, which is fixed to a drill stem. Rescuers in Uttarakhand have already set up 3 auger drills and will soon deploy three more.
Officials are confident that they will be able to get the trapped workers out safely.
“Efforts are being made to make a safety passage or a small tunnel with the help of a pipe. Material has been made available at the site. The platform is also being made for them. After that, the construction of the escape tunnel will also be started. Everyone is said to be safe,” said Uttarakhand District Magistrate Abhishek Rohilla.
The tunnel, which is 13 metres wide (43 feet) and 15 metres (50 feet) in height with the workers trapped in a two-kilometre space, was being built on a national highway that is part of the Char Dham Yatra project.
The pace of drilling had slowed down due to landslides in the area, but efforts were being made on a war footing, Uttarakhand state police chief Ashok Kumar said in a statement.
The Air Force flew in a second drilling machine on a C-130 Hercules military plane yesterday to “speed up rescue work” after the first one broke down.
About 80 policemen, 20 fire services officials, and 60 disaster management officials were engaged in the rescue operations.
Officials have also sought guidance from the Thai company that rescued children from a flooded cave in 2018. In 2018, the Thai team had rescued 12 boys from a junior football team and their coach who were trapped for more than two weeks in the Tham Luang cave complex.