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Uttarkashi Tunnel Collapse: Visuals Of Trapped Workers Surface From Bigger Pipeline, Multi-Pronged Rescue Operation Taking Place

On November 12, a part of the under-construction tunnel collapsed in 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 operation underway in Uttarkashi
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The first visuals of 41 workers trapped in a tunnel in Uttarakhand's Uttarkashi were captured and released on Tuesday. 

After the rescue operation was suspended on Friday, the operation has now resumed and is progressing on multiple fronts. In addition to National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), State Disaster Response Force (SDRF), and Indian Army personnel, various public sector undertakings (PSUs) and a team of private international experts have also been roped in rescue the stranded workers.

The authorities also clarified that the workers are not stranded in darkness. The National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) said that workers are in a 2-km stretch of the tunnel and the area is well-lit as the electricity connections were not snapped in the accident on November 12. Oxygen is also being pumped into the tunnel since the beginning of the rescue operations.

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On November 12, a part of the under-construction tunnel collapsed in 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.

Besides the mainstay approach of reaching the workers through pipes at the Silkyara-end of the tunnel, from those they can crawl out, a number of other approaches are also being worked out, such as vertical digging and a tunnel construction from the other side. 

Trapped workers safe and sound, contact established

First visuals of workers trapped in the Uttarkashi tunnel emerged on Monday after rescuers pushed a six-inch pipeline through 53 metres of rubble to reach them. The visuals were captured through an endoscopic camera this pipeline.

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In the video shared by PTI, officials are seen talking to the workers who are seen in construction vests. While a smaller pipeline had established communication with the workers earlier and was being used to send food items like dry fruits, the newer pipeline would be used to send cooked food like dalia and khichdi in addition to fruits like apples and bananas, according to officials cited by the news agency.

Ministry of Road Transport and Highways (MoRTH) Additional Secretary (Technical) Mahmood Ahmed told ANI, "First, the NHIDCL has ensured the facility of oxygen supply, food, water or medicine. There are lights and an electricity supply inside...There is a place up to 2km inside as the tunnel was already built... From the 4-inch pipeline, we were sending dry fruits and other eatables... Through the 6-inch pipeline, we sent a walkie-talkie inside and established communication... We also got a video showing that all of them are in good mental and physical health."

Sunita Hembrum, whose brother-in-law Pradeep Kisku is among the trapped labourers, told PTI that she talked to Kisku through the newer pipeline.

"I talked to him this morning. Oranges have been supplied to them through the new food pipe. Efforts are also underway to send khichdi to them. He was fine. Earlier we had to shout to make ourselves audible but today his voice was clear," said Sunita.

What's the status of rescue operations?

After the rescue operation was suspended on Friday after the machine being used for drilling hit a snag, operation has now resumed and multiple approaches are being adopted. An international team of experts is also at the site to assist the rescue.

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In addition to the mainstay method of inserting pipes through the rubble so that workers could crawl out, rescuers are also working on plans for vertical digging and drilling a separate tunnel to reach the workers. 

"Drilling from the other, Balkot-end, of the tunnel is another alternative on which the rescue agencies are working. Drlling parallel tunnels is also being considered. Some of the heavy machinery for these new approaches has reached the disaster site," reported PTI.

The Border Roads Organisation (BRO) comprising Indian Army personnel have built a road to reach the top of the tunnel from where vertical digging would be carried out. The PTI reported that a 75-tonne machine would be taken there for the purpose.

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