Rescue teams in Uttarakhand are battling against time to evacuate 41 construction workers who have been trapped under debris for over 170 hours following a tunnel collapse.
The workers’ prolonged confinement within the tunnel is raising serious concerns about their health and well-being.
Officials are trying to drill a vertical hole from the top of the hill today – under which the workers have been trapped inside the collapsed tunnel with limited food and communication.
Work to build a platform to start vertical drilling began last evening after high-performance drilling machine reached the site from Madhya Pradesh’s Indore.
A team of officials from the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) and experts at the site are also working simultaneously on five plans to rescue the 41 men. “The experts were one in their view that rather than working on just one plan we should work at the same time on five plans to reach the trapped workers as early as possible,”said Bhaskar Khulbe, former advisor to the Prime Minister.
Mr Khulbe said the workers are likely to be rescued in four-five days with concerted efforts of the agencies.”But if the gods are kind enough, it could happen even earlier than that,” he said.
Union Minister Nitin Gadkari and Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami today reached the accident site to review the ongoing rescue and relief operation. “We are working on all the possibilities available. All types of expert teams are working here,” Mr Dhami said.
Drilling was stopped on Friday evening after officials heard a sudden “cracking sound” from the machine
The Centre also held a high-level meeting where the five options to rescue the workers were discussed with different agencies assigned with specific alternatives to work on, sources said.
MD Mahmood Ahmedhas been appointed in-charge for coordination with all the central agencies.
It has been an agonising wait for the families keeping vigil outside the tunnel. Their voices are getting weaker, their strength seemingly dimming, family members said after speaking to some of the workers.
Doctors have also emphasised the need for comprehensive rehabilitation for the trapped workers, fearing that the prolonged confinement may necessitate both mental and physical recovery processes.
The 41 workers have been stuck since Sunday morning after a portion of the tunnel caved in. Officials said that all workers are safe and are being supplied food and water through steel pipes that have been drilled into the opening.
The under-construction tunnel is part of the ambitious Char Dham project, a national infrastructure initiative to enhance connectivity to the Hindu pilgrimage sites of Badrinath, Kedarnath, Gangotri, and Yamunotri.