Rescue Operation Underway in Uttarkashi Tunnel After Landslide, 40 Still Inside

November 14, 2023 – In the aftermath of a landslide in an under-construction tunnel in Uttarkashi, the rescue operation entered its third day. Rapid efforts are being made to extract the trapped laborers after a landslide occurred in the tunnel under construction. A drilling machine has been requisitioned, which will install a 900 mm steel pipe in the debris. Through this pipe, the trapped laborers inside the tunnel will be safely brought out.

The 900 mm diameter pipes have reached the incident site, and the drilling machine is now on-site. The platform for the drilling machine has been prepared, and the installation process is progressing rapidly.

It’s worth noting that continuous soil erosion from above is causing hindrance to the ongoing debris removal in the rescue operation. To address this, pipes will be inserted to block the debris. The machine will drill and insert the pipes, and it is estimated that this phase of the operation may take up to 24 hours.

After inspecting the tunnel, Ranjit Kumar Sinha, the Secretary of Disaster Management, stated that the trapped laborers could be rescued by Tuesday night or Wednesday. The rescue team is consistently clearing debris. Pipes will be inserted into the debris, facilitating the extraction of laborers. Sinha assured that all workers inside the tunnel are safe, receiving supplies of food, water, and oxygen through the pipeline.

SDRF Commander Manikant Mishra visited the site today and reassured the workers about the ongoing rescue efforts. Supplies and essential medicines have also been delivered to the site. Communication with the trapped laborers is being maintained through walkie-talkies. Manikant Mishra spoke to the workers using this communication method to ensure their well-being.

After inspecting the situation, Ranjit Kumar Sinha mentioned that a comprehensive rescue operation is underway. He mentioned that 24-hour oxygen supply is being provided to the trapped workers through the pipeline. Additionally, communication is maintained with the families of the trapped workers through the Uttarkashi police control room.

The rescue operation is progressing swiftly, with the drilling machine being employed to expedite the process. Ranjit Kumar Sinha stated that the situation inside the tunnel is being evaluated, and all workers are secure, receiving essential supplies.


The Soft Rock Factor

The landslide in the Silkyara tunnel is attributed to the presence of soft rock. Efforts are ongoing to remove debris using JCB and other machinery. The location where the landslide occurred has sufficient oxygen for the trapped workers for approximately five to six days. Oxygen is also being supplied through pipelines.

Rescue workers mentioned that to reach the trapped 40 laborers, teams need to clear approximately 35 meters of debris. The rescue operation has been ongoing for over 52 hours.

After the inspection on Saturday night, the shift that started at 8:00 PM was supposed to end on Sunday morning at 8:00 AM. However, around 5:30 AM, a section of the tunnel, approximately 230 meters from the Silkyara entrance, collapsed.

The Silkyara tunnel is part of the Char Dham highway project, and about 500 meters of the 4.5-kilometer tunnel construction remains. Workers from Jharkhand, engaged in the construction, mentioned that they work in shifts for about 12 hours.

The incident occurred as a group of workers was about to leave for Diwali vacation on Sunday morning at around 8:00 AM. However, a section of the tunnel collapsed approximately 2.5 hours earlier, at 5:30 AM.

Rescue workers described how initially, debris fell slowly, allowing them to react. However, suddenly, a large amount of debris came down, leading to the closure of the tunnel. During this time, five workers managed to escape, while 40 others got trapped inside.

The rescue operation involves two shifts, with the day shift running from 8:00 AM to 8:00 PM, and the night shift from 8:00 PM to 8:00 AM. Four different companies employ workers in these shifts, including Navayuga, Shri Sai Construction, Nav Durga, and others.