The government on Sunday said it has set up a committee of three independent eminent experts into the May 19 tunnel collapse at Khooni Nallah in the Ramban district of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K).

The panel has already moved to the site to investigate the reasons behind the slide/collapse and remedial measures thereof. Further action will be taken based on the report of the committee.

The National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) has already initiated a process to handle such emergency situations and also taking all possible measures to avoid such mishappenings in the future, the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways (MoRTH) said in a statement.

The incident

On May 19, around 10.30-11 PM, a landslide and shooting of stones started while the execution of portal support installation work of adit at Khooni Nallah was being done. Before workers could be moved out, suddenly a huge rock fell above the false steel portal erected for construction of adit, which caved in trapping 12 workers at that spot, it added.

Senior NHAI officers immediately reached the site and rescue work was immediately started by SDRF, NDRF, and the J&K Police, the Ministry said.

Two workers were rescued immediately and were hospitalised and all possible medical aid is being extended to them. The rescue work was hampered by intermittent shooting stones and bad weather. The trapped workers did not survive and the bodies of 10 trapped workers were recovered by last evening.

Ex-gratia announced

Those whose life could not be saved are being given Workman compensation and additional ex-gratia of ₹2 lakh by EPC contractor which amounts to at least ₹15 lakh. The injured are also being adequately compensated. In addition, the UT administration has also announced ex-gratia relief of ₹1 lakh.

It is yet to be determined whether the occurrence of the incident is due to work being executed or due to natural reasons, MoRTH said.

Region prone to landslides

The stretch between Digdole and Khooni Nallah of the Ramban Banihal section is prone to frequent landslides/ shooting stones due to fragile geology. Considering the strategic importance of maintaining all-weather connectivity to Srinagar and after assessing the challenges in ensuring the stability of hill slopes on existing alignment, tunnels/ viaducts are proposed under three packages in the Ramban Banihal section.

The twin-tube tunnel work in the four-lane from Digdole to Panthyal on Jammu Srinagar Highway was awarded to Ceigall India Limited in a JV with Patel Engineering Limited. The construction work started on February 1, 2022.