Uttarakhand Tunnel Collapse: We Are Going To Get Them Out, Says International Tunnelling Expert Arnold Dix

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Uttarkashi: Rescue operations are in full swing to save the 41 workers who have been stuck for nearly 216 hours following the Silkyara tunnel collapse on November 12. Notably, International Tunnelling and Underground Space Association President Arnold Dix arrived at the Silkyara site in Uttarkashi to support the ongoing efforts to bring the trapped individuals to safety.

Professor Arnold Dix specialises in underground and transportation infrastructure, from construction risk to more technical issues associated with the actual safety performance from an operational safety perspective. He also provides advise on risks associated with underground construction and is widely recognised as the world’s leading expert on underground tunnelling. 

Professor Dix conducted an inspection at the Silkyara tunnel site and spoke to the agencies that have been involved in the rescue operations. With multiple agencies and plans in place to evacuate the trapped workers, Professor Dix appears confident of finding an optimum solution to rescue the workers. 

“We are going to get those men out. Great work is being done here. Our whole team is here and we are going to find a solution and get them out. A lot of work is being done here. It is important that not only the men rescued but also the men who are rescuing are safe. The whole world is helping. The team here is fantastic. The plans are looking fantastic. The work is very systematic. The food and the medication are being provided properly,” Professor Dix told ANI as he arrived at the collapse site. 

Meanwhile, the Uttarakhand government and the centre are maintaining constant communication and making all efforts to keep up the morale of the labourers trapped in the 2 km-long tunnel portion. 

Electricity and water are available in this portion of the tunnel, and labourers are provided food items such as channa, murmure, dry fruits, medicines, etc. through a 4-inch compressor pipeline. 

National Highways & Infrastructure Development Corporation Limited (NHIDCL) is creating another 6-inch pipeline for food. For this pipe, drilling of 39 metres out of 60 metres is complete. 

Rail Vikas Nigam Limited (RVNL) has started working on another vertical pipeline for the supply of essential items. Border Roads Organisation (BRO) has completed an approach road in just one day to facilitate RVNL. 

NHIDCL will also continue to drill from the Silkyara end after working safety arrangements. The Army has prepared the box culvert to facilitate this. 

Further, Tehri Hydroelectric Development Corporation (THDC) will start work on micro-tunnelling from the Barkot end, for which heavy machinery has been mobilised. 

Sutlej Jal Vidyut Nigam Limited (SJVNL) will do the vertical drilling to rescue the trapped labourers. Accordingly, equipment has been mobilised from Gujarat and Odisha. ONGC has also started the initial work for vertical drilling from the Barkot end. BRO has already started the approach road for mobilisation machines for ONGC and SJVNL. 

Earlier today, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had a telephonic conversation with Uttarakhand Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami and discussed the ongoing operations to rescue the 41 workers who have been trapped since last week in the collapsed Silkyara tunnel in Uttarkashi. 

On November 12, it was reported that a collapse occurred in an under-construction tunnel from Silkyara to Barkot due to muck falling in a 60-metre stretch on the Silkyara side of the tunnel, trapping 41 workers. It was decided to lay a 900-mm pipe through the muck as it was the fastest possible solution. However, on November 17, because of ground movement, it became unsafe to continue with this option. It was then decided to move on multiple fronts together. Five options were decided, and five different agencies were detailed to carry out these options. 

Meanwhile, locals and relatives of the workers have been offering prayers at a temple that has been built at the main entrance of the tunnel, where rescue operations continue.

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