As rescue operations continue for the 8th day to save the 41 trapped workers at the Silkyara Tunnel in Uttarkashi, Anurag Jain, the Secretary of the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways, explained the decision to implement a five-option action plan.
On 12.11.2023, it was reported that a collapse occurred in the under-construction tunnel from Silkyara to Barko due to mud falling in a 60-meter stretch on the Silkyara side of the tunnel.
After the incident, the State Government and the Government of India immediately mobilized resources for the rescue of the 41 trapped laborers.
It was initially decided to lay a 900 mm pipe through the mud as it was deemed the best and fastest solution based on expert advice.
However, on 17.11.2023, due to ground movement, it became unsafe to continue with this option without securing the structure. Considering the lives at stake, it was decided to pursue all possible options simultaneously to expedite the rescue of the workers.
Five options were devised, and five different agencies were assigned responsibilities for their execution. These agencies are the Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC), Sutlej Jal Vidyut Nigam (SJVNL), Rail Vikas Nigam Limited (RVNL), National Highways and Infrastructure Development Corporation Limited (NHIDCL), and Tehri Hydro Development Corporation Limited (THDCL).
The government maintains constant communication with the trapped laborers and is making every effort to uplift their morale. The section of the tunnel where the workers are trapped is 8.5 meters high and 2 kilometers long. It is the portion of the tunnel where concrete work has been completed, ensuring the safety of the laborers.
Electricity and water are also available in this section of the tunnel. Additionally, the workers are provided with food items such as channa, murmure, dry fruits, and medicines through a 4-inch compressor pipeline.
NHIDCL is constructing another 6-inch pipeline for food delivery, and drilling has already been completed for 39 meters out of the total 60 meters. Once this pipeline is ready, more food items can be delivered.
RVNL has begun working on a vertical pipeline for the supply of essential items after the Border Roads Organization completed the construction of an approach road in just one day.
NHIDCL will continue drilling from the Silkyara end after implementing safety arrangements. The army has prepared a box culvert to facilitate this, and a canopy framework is being constructed to ensure the safety of the workers. The work of laying the pipeline will resume tomorrow.
Furthermore, Tehri Hydroelectric Development Corporation (THDC) will commence micro tunneling from the Barkot end, and heavy machinery has already been mobilized for this operation. THDC will begin the operation tonight.
Sutlej Jal Vidyut Nigam Limited (SJVNL) will engage in vertical drilling to rescue the trapped laborers. Equipment weighing 75 tonnes has been mobilized from Gujarat and Odisha via railways since it could not be airlifted.
ONGC, with expertise in deep drilling, has also initiated preliminary work for vertical drilling from the Barkot end.
The government is fully committed to rescuing all the laborers safely.