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Uttarkashi Tunnel Collapse: Field Hospital Readied And Ambulances Arranged At Site As Rescue Operation Enters Final Stages

For the past 11 days, 41 workers have been trapped inside a 2-km stretch of under-construction tunnel at Uttarkashi's Silkyara. The tunnel is part of the Char Dham Project, which has been flagged over environmental concerns over the years, owing to the fragility of the Himalayan geology.

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Rescue efforts at the Silkyara tunnel in Uttarkashi
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A 41-bed hospital has been readied at Uttarkhand's Uttarkashi and ambulances have arrived at the site of the collapsed tunnel as the operation to rescue 41 trapped workers has entered the final phase. 

For the past 11 days, 41 workers have been trapped inside a 2-km stretch of under-construction tunnel at Uttarkashi's Silkyara. Earlier on November 12, a part of the under-construction tunnel at Silkyara caved in and trapped 41 workers. The tunnel is part of the Char Dham Project, which has been flagged over environmental concerns over the years, owing to the fragility of the Himalayan geology.

After initial setbacks, the rescue operation is now in full-swing as multiple agencies, such as the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), State Disaster Response Force (SDRF), and Indian Army, and various public sector undertakings (PSUs) carry out the joint-operation. In addition to the mainstay approach of inserting pipes through the rubble so the workers could crawl out, parallel approaches are also being worked out. 

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The stretch of the tunnel where the workers are is well-lit as the electricity connection was not snapped when the tunnel caved in. Contact has been established with them and oxygen is being pumped to them. Food and water is also being provided to the workers. 

Here we list the latest developments related to the Uttarkashi tunnel rescue operation.

Uttarkashi rescue operation reaches final stretch

The rescuers have drilled up to 45 of the total 57 metres of debris in the tunnel, according to latest update on Tuesday. 

Pipes with a metre's width are being inserted through the rubble so that the workers could crawl out. 

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After drilling was suspended on Friday last week, it resumed on Tuesday even as alternate plans are also being worked upon in case something goes off in the mainstay drilling in the final phase. The officials have expressed optimism and have said that the workers could be extracted as early as Thursday. 

When asked about the expected timeline for the evacuation of workers, Officer on Special Duty (OSD) to Government of Uttarakhand Bhaskar Khulbe said they hope to "celebrate Bagwal with them". The PTI noted that Khulbe possibly meant Igas, a festival celebrated in Uttarakhand's Garhwal region after Diwali which falls on Thursday this year.

"Hopefully the next two-three hours will be comfortable in terms of assembling for the next push and attaining what all of us are waiting for," said Khulbe, a former official at the Prime Minister's Office (PMO), at a briefing at 4 pm, according to PTI. He added that "similar good news" was expected at a briefing later in the evening.

While officials have high hopes for digging through the ongoing Silkyara-end of the tunnel, parallel digging is also going on at the other end of the tunnel. That approach, however, would take several days to be implemented. 

National Highways & Infrastructure Development Corporation Limited (NHIDCL) MD Mahmood Ahmed said about eight metres of horizontal drilling had taken from the Barkot end of the tunnel, a much longer process that could take several days, reported PTI. 

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Hospital for workers prepared, ambulances arrive at site

A 41-bed field hospital has been prepared for the workers and ambulances have been deployed at the site for transporting them. 

While the 41-bed hospital has been set up at Community Health Centre in Chinyaisaur, an eight-bed field hospital has also been set-up at the site of the accident.

Visuals of the ambulances arriving at the site at Silkyara have surfaced. The PTI reported that a team of doctors, including specialists, have also been deployed.

"A team of 15 doctors, including chest specialist, has been deployed at the site in anticipation of the evacuation. Twelve ambulances were on standby at the spot, and the plan was to keep a fleet of 40 ready. A helicopter was also expected to be earmarked for the operation," reported PTI.

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