'Every day, we hear two more hours': Anxiety at peak in Jharkhand village as tunnel rescue hits setback

The blades of the auger machine drilling through the rubble of the tunnel were on Saturday stuck in the debris

November 26, 2023 12:10 pm | Updated 08:54 pm IST - Ormanjhi (Jharkhand)

The entrance of the Silkyara Bend-Barkot Tunnel from the Barkot side during the rescue operation of 41 workers trapped inside the under construction tunnel, in Uttarkashi, on November 25, 2023.

The entrance of the Silkyara Bend-Barkot Tunnel from the Barkot side during the rescue operation of 41 workers trapped inside the under construction tunnel, in Uttarkashi, on November 25, 2023. | Photo Credit: Shashi Shekhar Kashyap

In Khirabeda, the anxiety has now reached its peak as three people from this nondescript village on the outskirts of Ranchi are still stuck in the collapsed Silkyara tunnel in Uttarakhand where the rescue operation hit another setback.

The blades of the auger machine drilling through the rubble of the tunnel were on Saturday stuck in the debris, forcing officials to consider switching to options that could drag on the rescue of 41 trapped workers by several days - even weeks.

Follow Uttarkashi tunnel collapse LIVE updates here

Ever since the news reached a paralysed Shravan Bediya, 55, whose only son Rajendra is trapped there, the desperation on his face became palpable even though he is confined to his bed.

Besides 22-year-old Rajendra, two others from the village -- Sukhram and Anil, both in their early twenties, are trapped inside the tunnel for two weeks now.

Sukhram's mother Parvati, who is also paralysed, has been inconsolable since she found out about the disaster that happened in Uttarkashi.

In Anil's house, his grieving mother has not cooked anything for the last two weeks. The family has been surviving on whatever food their neigbours are providing.

Silkyara tunnel rescue ‘dangerous’, may take a ‘long time’: NDMA

The rescue effort began November 12 when a portion of the under-construction tunnel on Uttarakhand's Char Dham route collapsed following a landslide, cutting off the exit for the workers inside.

Anil's brother Sunil who rushed to the spot from Ranchi told PTI over the phone, "Every day, we hear two more hours, three more hours or one more day. We don't know how long it will take. I could talk to my brother four days back."

Sunil is now living in the place his brother was staying along with the 40 other workers who are stuck inside.

"We are getting food when it is distributed," he said.

Sunil, who also works in such projects, said this was the most difficult time of his life, with none left to tend to his old parents who were in a state of shock.

"I could somehow arrange the funds to travel to Uttarkashi," he said.

Sukhram's sister Khushboo said that everyone in their village was glued to their mobile phones for updates on the rescue operations.

"The entire village is in shock as three of our people are stuck inside," she said.

Ram Kumar Bediya, a villager, said that a group of 13 people, all between 18 and 23, had left Khirabeda on November 1 to work at the Uttarkashi tunnel.

"When the disaster struck, three of them were working inside the tunnel," he said.

A plasma cutter was flown in from Hyderabad on Sunday to cut and remove parts of the auger machine stuck in the rubble inside the tunnel.

A complete disengagement of the machine is necessary to resume the rescue work, which involves manual pushing of pipes through the rubble to prepare an escape passage.

The workers are in a built-up two-kilometre stretch of the tunnel. They are being sent food, medicines and other essentials through a six-inch wide pipe.

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