India: Final Push to Free Workers Trapped Under Tunnel Hits Snag

Sat Nov 25 2023
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UTTARAKHAND: Efforts to rescue 41 workers trapped inside the under-construction Silkyara Tunnel in India faced new challenges as a new digging machine was deployed after the previous attempts hit snags just meters away from reaching the stranded workers.

The rescue mission, now in its second week, encountered setbacks as engineers drilling a metal pipe through 57 meters of rock and concrete discovered metal rods and construction vehicles buried in the earth.

Just nine meters away from breaking through, the drilling with a giant earth-boring machine stalled, and using gas-cutting tools to remove thick metal girders from inside the confined pipe proved to be a challenging task. Abhishek Ruhela, a top local civil servant, informed AFP on Saturday that efforts were underway to cut and clear the blockage.

Nine Meters Away to Free Silkyara Tunnel Workers

Arnold Dix, President of the International Tunnelling and Underground Space Association, expressed that the main drilling machine was irreparably broken, leading to ongoing work to remove it. Despite the setback, Dix remains optimistic, stating, “I am confident that the 41 men are coming home.”

Rescue operations have been hampered by the slow progress, compounded by falling debris and repeated breakdowns of crucial heavy drilling machines, requiring the Air Force to airlift new equipment twice. Ambulances are on standby, and a field hospital is ready to receive the trapped workers, who have been in distress since a portion of the under-construction Silkyara tunnel in the northern state of Uttarakhand collapsed on November 12.

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