Wednesday, December 6, 2023

Drilling work suspended in Uttarkashi tunnel collapse; another machine to arrive from Indore

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Rescue efforts to reach the 40 trapped workers in the Silkyara tunnel were temporarily stopped on Saturday after drilling 25 meters into the rubble, as confirmed by a senior official. The workers have been stuck for six days since a section of the under-construction Silkyara tunnel collapsed on November 12. Anshu Manish Khulko, the director of NHIDCL, the tunnel-making company, informed that the drilling work to reach the trapped workers is currently on hold.

When queried about whether the halt in drilling was due to a malfunction in the rescue operation machinery, Khulko clarified, “There was no fault in the machine.” He explained that the focus was on preparing for the insertion of a pipeline to extricate the trapped workers, a process that has been underway for the past three days. However, only 25 meters of the pipeline-laying work has been completed thus far, he informed.

The managing director of NHIDCL is anticipated to arrive at the incident site on Saturday and will provide further details after assessing the ongoing rescue efforts. On Friday, the Auger machine involved in the drilling temporarily ceased operations after encountering a rock face, but it resumed functioning in the afternoon. Another heavy-duty drilling machine from Indore, Madhya Pradesh, is expected to reach the tunnel site later on Saturday. The collapse of the under-construction tunnel between Silkyara and Dandalgaon on the Brahmakhal-Yamunotri national highway occurred in the early hours of November 12.

In a statement to the media on Friday, the National Highways & Infrastructure Development Corporation Limited, the company overseeing the tunnel construction, reported that excavation with shotcreting (concrete spraying) for 40 meters of the collapsed tunnel is currently underway. A cavity, situated 10 meters above the crown on both the left and right sides, has been formed, and a chimney formation has been initiated along the tunnel. The statement further noted the relocation of an additional shotcrete machine from RVNL Package-III to the worksite.

The 4531-meter Silkyara Tunnel is a component of the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways’ Chardham Project, connecting the Gangotri and Yamunotri axes beneath the Radi pass area. NHIDCL, in collaboration with Navayuga Engineering Company Ltd, is overseeing the construction of the tunnel at a cost of Rs 853.79 crore.

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