40 workers battle for life as Chardham road project tunnel collapses

Food and oxygen are being supplied through pipes and officials supervising the rescue operations said that it might take two more days (of by Wednesday) to rescue the people trapped inside

Tunnel collapse

Uttarkashi (Uttarakhand): Around 40 construction workers, who got trapped inside a collapsed under-construction tunnel in Uttarkashi district of Uttarakhand on the Diwali day (November 12), remained battling for their lives on Monday, as rescue team could catch up with till the late evening.

Officials supervising the rescue operations said that it might take two more days (Tuesday night or Wednesday) to rescue the people trapped inside. The tunnel is being built between Silkyara and Dandalgaon on Brahmakamal and Yamunotri National Highway under Chardham road project.

The stranded labourers are from Bihar, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Odisha, Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh. More than 200 people from NDRF, SDRF, ITBP, BRO and National Highway have been engaged in the rescue operation for 36 hours. Uttarakhand chief minister Pushkar Singh Dhami, who visited the spot to take stock of the rescue work, said, “All the workers are safe, they have been contacted through walkie-talkie. Food and water are being delivered.”

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He further said that whatever is needed to rescue the workers trapped in the tunnel. “We will provide it as soon as possible. With the blessings of God and the tireless efforts of the people, I am confident that the trapped people will soon come out safely,” he added.

NHIDCL making all out efforts to rescue workers

National Highway and Infrastructure Development Corporation Limited (NHIDCL) issued a bulletin Monday saying that during the removal of debris, soil and stones were falling from the tunnel. This was causing problems in the rescue operation. However, efforts are being made to stop them through shotcrete.

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NHIDCL said that there is a plan to evacuate the workers with the help of one meter long steel pipe inside the tunnel. Under this, a steel pipe of 900 mm diameter will be inserted with the help of hydraulic jack to reach the workers. For this, experts from the irrigation department, geo-technical experts and engineers from the Rail Vikas Nigam have also come here.

The rescue operations gained pace on Monday morning after contact was established with the trapped workers.

Food and oxygen being supplied through pipes

Uttarkashi circle officer Prashant Kumar said on Monday that we have gone 15 meters inside the tunnel and about 35 meters more have to go inside. Contact was made with the workers till late night. All workers are safe. Oxygen, food and water are being supplied to them through pipes.

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50 meter part of tunnel caved in for want of plaster

NDRF assistant commander Karamveer Singh said, “This 4.5 kilometer long and 14 meter wide tunnel was plastered up to 200 meters from the starting point of the tunnel. There was no plaster beyond that, due to which this accident happened. It is expected that the workers will be evacuated by this evening,” said the commandant.

Tunnel is part of Chardham road project

This tunnel is being built under the Chardham road project at a cost of ₹853.79 crore. It is being made to allow traffic in all weather. This means that people will be able to move through it even during snowfall. After its construction, the distance between Uttarkashi and Yamunotri Dham will be reduced by 26 km.

Yamunotri highway usually gets closed in Radi Top area during snowfall in winter. Due to which the three tehsil headquarters of Yamuna valley, Barkot, Purola and Mori, get cut off from the district headquarters of Uttarkashi. To facilitate the Chardham Yatra and to get rid of the problem of snowfall in Radi Top, a plan was made to build a double lane tunnel here under the all weather road project.

Incident refreshes Chamoli flashflood tragedy

The incident of collapse of the road tunnel refreshes the tragedy of Tapovan tunnel tragedy in which at least six workers had died when a flash flood blocked its entry with a thick layer of mud, slush and other debris in February 2021. While managed to escape, six people were found dead due to suffocation after being trapped for more than 72 hours. The tunnel was being constructed for a hydropower project of the National Thermal Power Corporation Limited (NTPC Ltd) in Chamoli district of Uttarakhand.

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