PM Modi dials Uttarakhand CM Dhami to enquire about relief and rescue operation at Silkyara tunnel

by IANS |

Dehradun, Nov 20 (IANS) Even as hectic efforts are on to rescue the 41 trapped workers inside the Silkyara tunnel in Uttarakhand, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday spoke to Uttarakhand Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami to enquire about the relief and rescue operations in Uttarkashi district.

In a post on X, Uttarakhand Chief Minister Dhami said, "Prime Minister Narendra Modi enquired via telephone about the relief and rescue operations being conducted to safely rescue the workers trapped in the under-construction tunnel near Silkyara."

The Chief Minister said, "Necessary rescue equipment and resources are being provided by the Central Government. Central and state agencies are engaged in relief and rescue operations with mutual coordination and promptness. The workers trapped in the tunnel are safe and they are being provided oxygen, nutritious food and water."

"Experts' opinion is also being sought for relief and rescue operations. Every effort is being made to rescue all the workers trapped inside the tunnel quickly and safely," Dhami added.

The Centre said on Sunday that as the rescue operation continues for the eighth-consecutive day to save the 41 workers trapped in the tunnel, a five-option action plan to rescue them is being implemented.

Secretary, Ministry of Road Transport and Highways, Anurag Jain, said that a decision has been taken to implement a five-option action plan to rescue the workers.

Jain added that on November 12, it was reported that the collapse occurred in the under-construction tunnel from Silkyara to Barkot due to debris falling in the 60 metre stretch on the Silkyara side of the tunnel.

He said that after the incident, the state and Centre mobilised resources for the rescue operations and it was decided to lay a 900 mm pipe through the debris as it was the best and fastest possible solution as per the advice of the experts.

"However, on November 17, because of ground movement, it became unsafe to continue with this option without securing the structure," he said, adding that considering the lives involved, it was decided to move on all possible fronts together so that the workers could be rescued as early as possible.

He said that five agencies -- Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC), Sutluj Jal Vidyut Nigam (SJVNL), Rail Vikas Nigam Limited (RVNL), National Highways and Infrastructure Development Corporation Limited (NHIDCL), and Tehri Hydro Development Corporation Limited (THDCL) -- have been assigned responsibilities to rescue the trapped labourers.

Equipment have been mobilised from Gujarat and Odisha through Railways, considering that they could not be airlifted given that they weigh 75 tonnes.

Jain said the area in which the workers are trapped is 8.5 metres high and 2 km long. "This is the built up portion of the tunnel where concreting work has been done to provide safety to the labourers. Electricity and water are also available in this portion of the tunnel," he said.

For food, the workers are being provided items such as channa, murmure, dry fruits along with medicines through a four-inch compressor pipeline.

Jain further said that the NHIDCL is creating another six-inch pipeline for food, and drilling of 39 metres out of 60 metres has been completed.

He also said that RVNL has started working on another vertical pipeline for supply of essential items after the Border Roads Organisation (BRO) completed building an approach road in just one day.

The NHIDCL will continue to drill from the Silkyara end, he said.

"To facilitate this, the Army has prepared the box culvert. A canopy framework is being made to ensure workers’ safety. Work on laying the pipeline will recommence today," Jain said.

"The Tehri Hydroelectric Development Corporation (THDC) shall start work of micro-tunnelling from the Barkot end for which heavy machinery has already been mobilised," he added.

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