The Indian Army has stepped in for the rescue operation at a collapsed tunnel in Uttarakhand’s Uttarkashi where 41 workers have been trapped for the past 15 days. They were moving their equipment to the tunnel site as work was on to remove the auger machine which was busted when it encountered a metal obstruction while drilling through the debris.
How tunnel collapsed:
Environmentalists and residents have blamed rapid construction, including the Char Dham project, for land subsidence in the region, saying this contributed to the tunnel collapse.
The Uttarakhand region, the birthplace of the Ganges and its major tributaries, sustains more than 600 million Indians with water and food. The landscape is dotted with forests, glaciers and water springs.
Crucially, India’s climate is influenced by this area, as its topsoil serves as a significant carbon sink – naturally absorbing and storing carbon dioxide to mitigate the impact of greenhouse gas emissions.
There are two main road tunnels in the project – the Silkyara tunnel and a shorter 400-metre tunnel in Chamba – as well as planned tunnels for railways and hydropower projects.
Final phases of the rescues:
New Delhi: The final phases of the rescue mission to liberate 41 workers ensnared in the Silkyara Tunnel in Uttarakhand are underway, and the extraction of labourers is imminent. Over the past 17 days, the NDRF, in collaboration with the Indian army and other relevant authorities, has been tirelessly working around the clock to evacuate the workers trapped following the collapse of a section of the under-construction tunnel in Uttarkashi.
The rescue mission commenced by employing a gentle cutting machine, which later transitioned to utilizing an American auger machine to penetrate the collapsed section of the tunnel. However, both strategies proved unsuccessful as the auger machine malfunctioned, getting lodged in the tunnel and complicating the rescue efforts further.
Around 1:30 pm on Tuesday, Bansi Dhar Tiwari, the state government’s information department, announced the completion of drilling. Shortly after, Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami confirmed on social media that the escape pipe had been laid into the drilled passage, expressing optimism about bringing out all workers soon.
However, hours later the National Disaster Management Authority’s official said that the breakthrough is not yet achieved but the rescuers are quite close.
Finally, at around 7:00pm the breakthrough was achieved and rescuers entered the collapsed tunnel.
What is the rat hole mining technique?
Rat-hole mining is a contentious and hazardous extraction method involving the removal of coal through small pits, each no wider than 4 feet. Once the miners reach the coal seam, lateral tunnels are created to extract the coal. The extracted coal is initially deposited nearby and later transported.
In rat-hole mining, manual tools such as chisels and hammers are utilized by workers to excavate and remove debris. This method is prevalent in Meghalaya, particularly where the coal layer is thin. Due to the compact size of the tunnels, even minors, including teenagers and children, are engaged in the process, with some pretending to be adults to secure employment in such mines. Several incidents in Meghalaya have led to fatalities among rat-hole miners. On December 13, 2018, 15 workers engaged in ‘rat hole mining’ lost their lives due to waterlogging in a coal mine in Kasan.
At least 12 rat-hole mining experts were tasked with horizontally drilling through the final 10- to 12-meter stretch of debris in the collapsed section of the under-construction tunnel on the Char Dham route in Uttarakhand.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi led the nation in praising the courage and patience of the trapped workers and their families and the bravery and determination of the rescue personnel.
“The success of the rescue operation of our labourer brothers in Uttarkashi is making everyone emotional. I want to say to those trapped in the tunnel that your courage and patience are inspiring everyone. I wish you all well and good health. It is a matter of great satisfaction that after a long wait, our friends will now meet their loved ones. The patience and courage these families have shown in this challenging time cannot be appreciated enough,”
₹1 lakh to be given to each rescued worker: CM Dhami
Uttarakhand CM Dhami said on Tuesday that ₹1 lakh would be given to each rescued worker.
Mr. Dhami also said that the Baukhnag temple would be rebuilt, and the tunnels under construction would be reviewed.
The trapped workers were so happy and fit that even though we sent the stretchers, the workers crawled in the 57-60 met long 800 mm pipe, he added.
Mr. Dhami thanked PM Narendra Modi for his constant support during the rescue efforts. “Evacuation began with the youngest of workers. Labourers rescued from the tunnel are to be kept under medical observation before being sent home,” he said.
It is great news for the nation that all our 41 Shramik brothers trapped have been rescued safe: Union Home Minister Amit Shah
Union Home Minister Amit Shah on Tuesday said it is great news for the nation that all the trapped labourers have been rescued successfully.
On X, Mr. Shah said, “Nation salutes their grit in facing such a challenging situation in the tunnel for so long.”
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