Uttarkashi tunnel collapse updates | Drilling machine blades stuck in the debris, no quick exit in sight for trapped workers

On day 14 of the multi-agency rescue mission, officials shifted focus to two alternatives — manual drilling through the remaining 10- or 12-metre stretch of the rubble or, more likely, drilling down 86 metres from above.

November 25, 2023 07:38 am | Updated November 27, 2023 02:41 pm IST

 A vertical drilling machine near the under-construction Silkyara tunnel during the rescue operation of 41 workers trapped inside the tunnel, in Uttarkashi district, on November 25, 2023.

A vertical drilling machine near the under-construction Silkyara tunnel during the rescue operation of 41 workers trapped inside the tunnel, in Uttarkashi district, on November 25, 2023. | Photo Credit: PTI

The blades of the auger machine drilling through the rubble of the collapsed Silkyara 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.

On day 14 of the multi-agency rescue mission, officials shifted focus to two alternatives — manual drilling through the remaining 10- or 12-metre stretch of the rubble or, more likely, drilling down 86 metres from above.

“This operation could take a long time,” National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) member Lt Gen (retd) Syed Ata Hasnain said at his media briefing.

At the disaster site, international tunnelling expert Arnold Dix repeated his promise of getting the workers out “by Christmas”, which is a month away.

Manual drilling would involve individual workers entering the already bored 47-metre stretch of the rescue passage, drilling for a brief period in the confined space and then coming out to let someone else take over.

This, according to Uttarakhand Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami, could begin as soon as the equipment stuck in the planned escape passage is brought out.

Heavy vertical drilling equipment, already brought to Silkyara, was on Saturday moved up a one-and-a half-kilometre hill road constructed in a couple of days by the Border Road Organisation.

The vertical drilling would begin in the “next 24 to 36” hours, Hasnain said. He indicated that this was quicker of the two main options now being considered.

Drilling through the Silkyara rubble was at standstill for almost the entire day on Friday. But the extent of the problem was known Saturday when international expert Dix told reporters that the auger machine was “busted”.

“The drilling, augering has stopped. It’s too much for the auger, it’s not going to do anything more,” he said.

“The mountain has again resisted the auger, so we are rethinking our approach. I am confident that the 41 men are coming home,” he said, insisting that they remained safe.

When pressed to spell out a timeline, Dix said, “I have always promised that they will be home by Christmas.” The 25-tonne drilling machine, now out of commission, includes an auger — a giant corkscrew-like device with a cutter at its end.

This has so far created a horizontal passage of 46.9 metres into the rubble, out of the estimated total length of 60 metres.

A steel chute had been pushed through, in sections, up to this point where the rotary blades are stuck, followed by the long auger.

About 20 metres of the auger in the chute has been cut out, Dhami told reporters. A plasma cutter is being airlifted from Hyderabad to tackle the remaining 25 metres.

The development has added to the anxiety of families of trapped workers, some of whom are camping near the disaster site and talking occasionally to them through the communication system set up by the rescue workers.

Also read | Uttarkashi tunnel rescue delayed as drill machine hits hurdle

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.

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

Mobile phones have been sent in through this tube and a landline established, officials said. Board games like Ludo were also provided.

An endoscopic camera has been used to get live visuals from beyond the collapsed stretch.

(With inputs from Agencies)

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  • November 25, 2023 16:45
    Rescue operations at Silkyara tunnel will take time; focus is now on vertical drilling: NDMA.

    In a press conference today, the NDMA said that 47-meters of drilling has been done so far, while efforts on to retrieve broken part of auger machine. Rescue operations at Silkyara tunnel will take time, and the focus is now on vertical drilling. It added that 86 meters of vertical drilling needed to reach Silkyara tunnel’s crust.

    - PTI

  • November 25, 2023 16:41
    ‘Since yesterday, several obstacles have come in the way of auger machine’: NDMA member
  • November 25, 2023 16:22
    Local residents praying to their deity for early rescue of trapped workers

    With repeated obstructions impeding the Silkyara tunnel rescue operation, residents of nearby villages are praying to the local deity, Baba Boukhnag, for the early release of the 41 workers trapped inside for the past 13 days.

    Talking to PTI, many local residents said they offer prayers daily for the wellbeing and safe rescue of the workers.

    Rajesh Rawat, a resident of Bhramkhaal village, about 10 km from the tunnel, said he and his family members are praying to Baba Boukhnag daily.

    Rawat, who owns a homestay in his village, said the local residents have huge faith in Baba Bhoukhnag and the workers will come out soon with his blessings. According to local residents, Boukhnag deity is considered the protector of the area.

    - PTI

  • November 25, 2023 15:44
    Auger machine blades stuck inside tunnel debris, plasma cutter needed

    The blades of the auger machine deployed to drill through the debris of the collapsed Silkyara tunnel have got stuck in the rubble, Uttarakhand Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami said on Saturday.

    He was briefing reporters about the latest hurdle in the operation to rescue 41 workers trapped in the tunnel for the past 13 days.

    He said a portion of the blades has been cut through and a plasma cutter is being airlifted from Hyderabad to complete the rest of the job.

    - PTI

  • November 25, 2023 15:30
    Impatience growing among trapped men, kin as rescue work hits repeated hurdles

    As the rescue effort hits one hurdle after another, hope is gradually giving way to impatience and disappointment.

    After her interaction with her brother-in-law Virender, who is among the 41 workers trapped inside the collapsed tunnel in Silkyara here for the past 13 days, Sunita said, “Today we talked about 10 minutes.... He did not eat this morning. He told me that he does not want to eat.... We are very anxious now. He looked very stressed and impatient. He kept asking us when would they come out.” Hailing from Bihar, she has come to the site along with her husband Devender and Virender’s wife. Virender’s plea summed up the mood among the trapped workers and their relatives who have gathered here.

    Virender’s elder brother Devender said the authorities are giving them hope everyday but are yet to achieve success. “For the last two days we are being assured by officials that they (trapped workers) are being evacuated soon but something or the other happens and the process gets delayed,” Devender said in a tone of disappointment.

    The communication between the trapped workers and their relatives is facilitated by a communication system set up through a six-inch wide pipe. An endoscopic camera was also pushed through this pipe, allowing rescue workers and relatives of the trapped men to see the condition inside.

    Rescuers are now trying to push wider pipes through the rubble to create an escape passage for the trapped workers.

    - PTI

  • November 25, 2023 14:59
    Operation will move forward manually from tomorrow morning: Uttarakhand CM
  • November 25, 2023 14:52
    Rescue teams planning manual drilling from Silkyara tunnel‘s mouth

    Rescue teams now plan to manually drill from Silkyara tunnel‘s mouth after the American auger machine failed. However, even the manual drilling will not start before Sunday as Auger machine is still stuck in the tunnel. Vertical drilling couldn’t start till 3 pm on Saturday as the machine for the same couldn’t reach at the top of mountain due to narrow road.

    - Ishita Mishra

  • November 25, 2023 13:54
    Uttarakhand CM Pushkar Singh Dhami leaves from Silkyara tunnel site after taking stock of the rescue operation
  • November 25, 2023 13:42
    An illustrated look inside the Uttarkashi tunnel
  • November 25, 2023 12:47
    Tunnel collapse: Options of manual drilling, creating vertical escape route being considered

    With the auger machine encountering hurdles in the rubble time and again, rescuers are exploring other options such as drilling the remaining stretch manually or creating a vertical escape passage for the 41 labourers trapped inside the Silkyara tunnel for the past 13 days, officials said on Saturday.

    Drilling at the collapsed portion of the tunnel to rescue the trapped men was halted again on Friday night after the auger drilling machine faced a hurdle, apparently a metal object, in yet another setback to the multi-agency effort.

    PTI

  • November 25, 2023 12:46
    Auger drilling machine ‘busted’, need to consider other options to rescue workers trapped in Uttarkashi tunnel: expert Arnold Dix. (PTI)
  • November 25, 2023 12:23
    Watch | Damaged blades of drilling machine brought out of the tunnel

    Damaged blades of the auger drilling machine brought out of Uttarkashi’s Silkyara tunnel, where operation is underway to rescue 41 trapped workers.

  • November 25, 2023 10:03
    Watch | Heavy machines for vertical drilling reaches Silkyara site
  • November 25, 2023 09:59
    Vertical drilling machine arrives at Silkyara tunnel

    Vertical drilling machine at the Silkyara tunnel as the operation to rescue 41 workers trapped here continues.

  • November 25, 2023 09:28
    Tunnel collapse: Kin of three more trapped Odisha workers to reach Uttarakhand

    Family members of three more Odia workers will reach Uttarakhand, where the labourers have been trapped in an under-construction tunnel for a fortnight, an official said.

    The kin of the two other labourers from Odisha are already in Uttarakhand’s Uttarkashi district where the incident occurred.

    Labour Commissioner N Thirumala Naik on Friday said one more official of the department will also travel to the site where two others are camping and providing all updates about the rescue operation to the government.

    PTI

  • November 25, 2023 09:12
    A view of the tunnel on Saturday morning

    A view of the tunnel on November 25, 2023 morning.

    Photo by Shashi Shekhar Kashyap

    silkyara.jpeg

  • November 25, 2023 08:54
    Rescue operations hasn’t moved a inch since last 24 hours

    Plan A of horizontal drilling from tunnel ‘s mouth in Silkyara hasn’t moved an inch for last 24 hours. American auger machine development snag as it hit iron objects.

    In an online meeting that took place last night between rescue agencies and experts across country, its decided that plan B of vertical drilling being done by RVNL should be today’s focus apart from plan A.

    BRO has been ordered to ferry all machines to the top of the mountain

    Ishita Mishra

  • November 25, 2023 08:20
    Option of manual drilling being considered at Silkyara tunnel

    With the auger machine encountering hurdles in the rubble time and again, rescuers are considering switching over to manual drilling at the Silkyara tunnel where 41 labourers have been trapped for the past 13 days, officials said on Saturday.

    Drilling at the collapsed portion of the tunnel to rescue the trapped men was halted again on Friday night, in yet another setback to the multi-agency effort.

    With one hurdle or the other not letting the auger machine drill further and lay steel pipes through the rubble to prepare an escape route for the trapped workers, the option of manual drilling is being considered, an official said. However, he said, manual drilling takes longer time.

    PTI

  • November 25, 2023 08:13
    Visuals from outside the Silkyara tunnel in Uttarkashi
  • November 25, 2023 08:12
    Switch to manual drilling being considered at Silkyara tunnel where 41 labourers are trapped behind collapsed portion: Officials (PTI)
  • November 25, 2023 07:51
    Silkyara tunnel collapse | Trapped in the Himalayas

    At the site of the Silkyara-Bend-Barkot-Tunnel collapse, 600-800 people swarm around a mountain already burdened with construction material and the fervour of 7.6 lakh pilgrims headed to Yamunotri, the source of the Yamuna river in Uttarakhand. Over 56 lakh people travelled to the four holy shrines — Gangotri, Kedarnath, and Badrinath — as part of the Char Dham Yatra this year.

    Read more here...

  • November 25, 2023 07:42
    “No heavy objects present up to 5 metres”: Experts on Uttarkashi rescue operation

    The team of experts who came to conduct a survey at the rescue site of the Silkyara tunnel, where 41 workers were trapped after a portion of the tunnel collapsed over a week ago, informed that there were no heavy objects up to 5 metres in the rescue tunnel.

    The team, which came from Parsan Overseas Pvt Ltd Delhi, used the ground-penetrating radar (GPR) technique to examine the rescue tunnel.

    Ground Penetrating Radar, also known as GPR, Georadar, Subsurface Interface Radar, or Geo-probing Radar, is a totally non-destructive technique to produce a cross-section profile of the subsurface without any drilling, trenching or ground disturbances.

    ANI

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