As rescue operations entered the 12th day to save trapped labourers, the government deployed a ground penetrating radar to complete the final leg of 15 meters of horizontal drilling via Augur machine inside the collapsed tunnel in Silkyara (Uttarakhand).

The radar allows the user an underground view of up to 5 meters that will enable the rescue team to identify blockages such as rock formations and debris while operating the Augur drilling machine.

“The drilling had to be stopped as a bend was discovered in a 6-inch pipe. The issue has been resolved and the pipe is being pushed back after welding. If all goes well, the Augur drilling will start shortly,” National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) Member Lt General Syed Ata Hasnain (Retd) told reporters at 16.00 hours on Friday (November 24).

Around 15 meters of distance remains to be covered through the Augur machine, he added without giving a timeline for the rescue exercise. No timeline was provided for the completion of the drilling.

National Highways & Infrastructure Development Corporation (NHIDCL) is conducting the horizontal boring from the Silkyara end.

The Ministry of Road Transport & Highways (MoRTH) in its update (till 15.00 hours on Friday) said freshly cooked food and fresh fruits are being inserted inside the tunnel at regular intervals using the second life line (pipeline).

“Modified communication system with wire connectivity developed by the State Disaster Response Force (SDRF) is being used for communication regularly. People inside have reported that they are safe,” it added.

On November 12, a collapse occurred at the under-construction tunnel from Silkyara to Barkot, which led to 41 labourers getting trapped in the under construction tunnel.

Other measures

Hydro power generator SJVNL’s machine for the vertical rescue tunnel construction has arrived at the site. Platform for launching the drilling machine has been completed. The marking of drilling points over the tunnel has been finalized after discussion with Geological Survey of India (GSI), Rail Vikas Nigam (RVNL) & Oil &Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC). Assembly of the machine has started.

THDC India has initiated the construction of a rescue tunnel from the Barkot end (horizontal boring), with four blasts already completed, resulting in a 9.10 meter drift. Additional rib fabrication work is in progress.

For the perpendicular-horizontal drilling by RVNL, the equipment for micro tunnelling has reached the site. The platform is likely to be completed by Friday and the equipment will be set up by Saturday.

For vertical drilling (6 inches) by RVNL at the Silkyara end, the access road has been completed by Border Roads Organisation (BRO) and handed over to RVNL. Machine for drilling has been towed to the location by BRO. Electric connection has been provided to RVNL and vertical drilling is likely to be completed by Sunday.