In a race against time, rescue teams comprising personnel from various national and state agencies are working tirelessly to evacuate 40 workers who became trapped when an under-construction tunnel collapsed on the ambitious Char Dham all-weather highway project in Uttarkashi. This incident occurred in the early hours of Sunday, sparking a massive response from rescue and disaster relief teams.
Over 150 personnel from organizations such as the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), State Disaster Response Force (SDRF), Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP), and the Border Roads Organisation (BRO) have been deployed to the scene, making concerted efforts to reach the trapped workers. Despite their unwavering dedication, officials have indicated that the operation might require an additional day to reach the workers, potentially extending into Tuesday evening or Wednesday morning.
Fortunately, the collapse did not result in any reported casualties. The trapped workers are being provided with essential supplies such as oxygen and food packets through pipes, and communication with them has been established using walkie-talkies.
Ranjit Sinha, secretary of the state disaster management department, who personally inspected the site, provided insights into the ongoing rescue mission. “We are expecting to reach the trapped workers by Tuesday evening or Wednesday morning,” he stated, underscoring the complexities of the operation.
Anshu Manish Khalko, director (administration and finance) of the National Highways & Infrastructure Development Corporation Limited (NHIDCL), the central government PSU overseeing the project, explained that loose debris is posing challenges to the rescue teams. They are employing a process known as shotcrete, which involves spraying concrete onto the debris to stabilize it.
Atul Kumar, director (technical) of NHIDCL, revealed that two options are being considered for the evacuation: using shotcrete to remove loose debris or employing a 900mm (three feet) diameter steel pipe with a hydraulic jack. These pipes are en route from Haridwar and Dehradun and are expected to reach the site to assist in the rescue operation. The collaborative efforts of these agencies demonstrate a commitment to ensuring the safety and well-being of the trapped workers as they face this challenging situation.