Here’s why Uttarkashi tunnel rescue operation was halted and when will it restart?

Uttarkashi Tunnel Collapse: The work to rescue the 40 people trapped in the Silkyara tunnel has been halted since 17 November, after the machine developed a technical snag. 

The ongoing drilling work to reach the 40 trapped workers inside the Silkyara tunnel was halted on Saturday after the rescuers bored 25 metres into the rubble, a top official said.

The workers have been trapped for six days, counting Saturday, after a portion of the under-construction Silkyara tunnel caved in on November 12.

Why rescue work was halted?

Speaking to ANI over the telephone, Anshu Manish Khulko, director of the tunnel-making company, NHIDCL, said the drilling work to reach the trapped workers is suspended for now.

Asked if the drilling work was stopped due to a snag in the machine being used in the rescue operation, Khulko added, “There was no fault in the machine.”

On Friday, the Auger machine engaged in the drilling work stopped functioning after it hit a rock face. However, the machine started working again in the afternoon. 

Micro-tunneling expert reaches spot

Chris Cooper, a micro tunnelling expert arrived at the Silkyara tunnel incident site on Saturday to monitor the rescue operation.

Chris Cooper is a Chartered Engineer with an experienced track record for delivery of Major International key civil engineering infrastructure, Metro tunnels, Large Caverns, Dams, Railway, and Mining Projects.

Cooper who is also a consultant for the Rishikesh Karnprayag rail project has reached the site to monitor the rescue operation of 40 workers trapped inside the tunnel for six days now.

When will rescue operation restart?

To resume the rescue operation, an additional auger machine has been airlifted from Indore. The backup machine was expected to reach the site by November 18 morning.

The new machine can drill at a speed of 5 meters per hour, though it might operate at the standard pace considering the current challenges.

What is Uttarkashi tunnel?

The 4531-metre Silkyara Tunnel is part of the Chardham Project of Ministry of Road Transport and Highways and will link the Gangotri and Yamunotri axis under the Radi pass area.

The tunnel is being constructed by NHIDCL through Navayuga Engineering Company Ltd at a cost of 853.79 crore.

The under-construction tunnel between Silkyara and Dandalgaon on the Brahmakhal-Yamunotri national highway collapsed in the early hours of November 12.

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Updated: 18 Nov 2023, 03:13 PM IST

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