“Anticipated Progress in Silkyara Site Rescue Operation Through ‘Horizontal Drilling’ Following Uttarkashi Tunnel Collapse.”

“On November 12, in Uttarkashi, Uttarakhand, a section of an under-construction tunnel collapsed at the Silkyara end, trapping 41 workers. Subsequent rescue efforts, led by multiple agencies, have faced numerous challenges, leading to intermittent halts in the operation.

“The original rescue plan involved utilizing the expertise of international tunnelling experts to employ horizontal drilling for the workers’ extraction. However, the operation faced a setback on November 24 when Auger drill blades broke, leading to a temporary halt. To address this issue, Plasma and magna rod cutter machines were brought to the site to remove the stuck auger blades. Uttarakhand Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami announced on Monday morning that the process of removing the auger parts had been completed. He stated, “The auger machine has been taken out completely… Drilling and pushing work will commence, and we hope to expedite the completion of the operation,” as reported by ANI.”

On Monday, micro-tunnelling expert Chris Cooper provided an update, stating, ‘We have 9 meters of hand tunnelling to do. It really depends on how the ground behaves. Could be quickly, could be a bit longer. If we hit some lattice girder, then we’ve got to cut out the lattice girder, but we’re confident we can get through. The Army is just supervising (the operation). 30 metres of (vertical drilling) has been done.’

Former DG of Border Roads Organisation, Harpal Singh, shared, ‘Frames of 800 mm diameter pipes have been prepared. We will move ahead by half a metre to one metre gradually. If all goes well and no obstacles are encountered, a 10-metre stretch can be covered in 24-36 hours.’

Considering alternative options, vertical drilling was identified as the second-best approach. Harpal Singh mentioned on Monday that vertical drilling from above the Silkyara-Barkot tunnel has been completed up to 31 metres. This operation involves drilling a total of 86 metres to prepare an escape passage for the 41 trapped workers, using 1.2 metres broad pipes laid from the top of the tunnel.

The Tehri Hydro Development Corporation (THDC) is actively working on a project to construct a rescue tunnel from the Barkot end, with the most recent fifth blast occurring at 2:25 am on November 26.

Key officials, including Principal Secretary to the PM Pramod Kumar Mishra, Union Home Secretary Ajay Kumar Bhalla, and Uttarakhand Chief Secretary SS Sandhu, visited Uttarkashi’s Silkyara tunnel to inspect the ongoing rescue operation. Mishra inspected the tunnel site, engaged in discussions with the families of trapped workers, and inquired about the daily food supply.

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