November 12, 2023 – In Uttarkashi, Uttarakhand, a landslide has occurred inside the under-construction tunnel from Silkyara to Dandalgaon on the Yamunotri National Highway. The tunnel is being constructed under the guidance of NHIDCL by the Navayuga company. It is reported that more than 40 workers are trapped inside the tunnel.
According to the latest reports, rescue and relief operations are underway at the Silkyara tunnel on the Uttarkashi-Yamunotri route. Regional Response Force (RRF) jawan Ranvir Singh Chauhan informed that work is progressing rapidly, and everyone is putting in a lot of effort. They had difficulties communicating with the trapped individuals initially, but now they have managed to establish contact.
Loader operator Mrityunjay Kumar mentioned that excavation work is in progress, and loaders and excavators are being used to remove debris. Approximately 30-35 meters of the tunnel has collapsed. The incident occurred around 5:30 AM. Around 40-45 people are reported to be trapped, and all are reported to be safe.
The Uttarkashi District Disaster Management has confirmed the incident. The exact number of workers trapped inside the tunnel is not known yet. Efforts are being made to remove the debris by the company. Five ambulances have been stationed at the site.
Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami, upon receiving information about the incident, stated that he is in constant contact with officials since the incident occurred. He assured that the State Disaster Response Force (SDRF) and the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) are present at the site and are working towards the safe return of everyone.
District Magistrate Abhishek Ruhela, witnessing the incident, has canceled the leaves of all officials in the district and directed them to report to their respective workstations immediately for reporting and relief and rescue efforts for the next 24 hours.
ADG Law and Order AP Anshuman stated that there is no information about any casualties yet. SDRF and other rescue teams, along with police forces, have reached the site. The incident happened around 5:00 AM near the Silkyara tunnel, 200 meters from the tunnel entrance, while the workers were 2800 meters inside the gate.
The construction of the Alwedar Road project includes a tunnel with a length of 4.5 km. About four kilometers of the tunnel has already been completed. The initial target for completing the tunnel construction was September 2023, but it is now expected to be completed by March 2024.
For assistance and updates on the Silkyara tunnel incident, a helpline has been issued. The Deputy Commissioner (SP) of Uttarkashi, Arpan Yaduvanshi, has deployed police forces, relief, and rescue teams at the site for 24 hours. The Uttarkashi Police helpline number is +917455991223.
DM Abhishek Ruhela, who had gone to Dehradun on Diwali vacation, reached the site by helicopter and then by car after receiving information about the incident. He assessed the situation inside the tunnel. DM Abhishek Ruhela mentioned that the safe evacuation of the workers trapped inside the tunnel is the administration’s top priority, and relief and rescue efforts are being conducted at a war level.
DM Abhishek Ruhela has canceled the leaves of all officers in the district following the incident near the Yamunotri Highway. All officers are directed to return to their respective workstations immediately and remain on standby for relief and rescue efforts for the next 24 hours.
Workers trapped in the tunnel belong to various states, including Uttarakhand, Jharkhand, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, and Odisha. The rescue operation involves a vertical drilling machine to rescue the trapped workers. The machine is expected to reach the site by Monday morning. Additionally, geological experts are in talks to deal with the continuous falling debris inside the tunnel.
The collapse of the tunnel has occurred in an area that was considered a sensitive part of the tunnel. The current NHIDCL General Manager Colonel Deepak Patil explained that the human pipe was kept in the risky sections of the tunnel. This allows workers to come out safely with the help of the human pipe in case debris falls, and workers get trapped. Colonel Deepak Patil mentioned that the workers were positioned with the oxygen supply within the tunnel. After continuous efforts in the rescue operation, everyone trapped inside the tunnel has been declared safe.
The incident happened five days after the retirement of NHIDCL General Manager Colonel Deepak Patil. Colonel Patil expressed sorrow upon receiving information about the tunnel’s collapse. He mentioned that the section where debris fell was a sensitive part of the tunnel. While expressing concern, he assured that all workers were safe and that oxygen supply was being maintained inside the tunnel.
Rescue and relief efforts are ongoing at the Silkyara tunnel, with large machines being deployed to remove debris. District Magistrate Abhishek Rohila mentioned that additional machines have been brought in to expedite the relief and rescue campaign. A short-cutting machine has arrived at the site for dealing with falling debris, and a horizontal drilling machine has been procured from the Lakhwad project.