Coordinated efforts are being made to evacuate the stranded workers at the earliest, from the Silkyara tunnel collapse site in Uttarakhand.
According to Road Transport and Highways Ministry, at least 40 workers got trapped after a portion of the tunnel under construction between Silkyara and Dandalgaon on the Brahmakhal-Yamunotri national highway collapsed in the early hours of Sunday (12 November).
As part of the Chardham Mahamarg Pariyojana, the Road Transport and Highways Ministry has taken up the construction of 4.531-kilometre two-lane bi-directional tunnel at Silkyara to join Gangotri and Yamunotri axis under the Radi pass in Uttarakhand.
The project was sanctioned at total cost of Rs 1,383 crore on 9 March 2018 for implementation by its company National Highways and Infrastructure Development Corporation Limited (NHIDCL).
According to the Ministry, on 12 November 2023 at 5.30am, about 40 workers were inside the tunnel doing reprofiling work, for 260 metre to 265 metre, from Silkyara portal, when a collapse occurred at 205 metre to 260 metre, and all 40 workers based on contractor tunnel entry register were trapped inside the tunnel.
"Incident was immediately reported to all concerned agencies of state/central government and rescue work started.. All co-ordinated efforts are being made to evacuate the stranded workforce at the earliest," the Ministry said.
The statement further said communication with trapped workers has been established through walkie talkies.
After discussions among experts and inspection of behaviour of fallen muck site over the night, the Ministry stated that it has been decided to push a 900 mm diametre MS steel pipe with the help of hydraulic jack to evacuate the workers trapped inside.
Besides, officials from Rail Vikas Nigam Limited (RVNL), NHIDCL, National Highways Authority of India and State Disaster Response Force (SDRF) reached and inspected the incident site and monitored the rescue operation closely.
While excavation with shotcreting for 40 metres of collapsed tunnel has started, the statement said, additional shotcrete machine has also been shifted from RVNL to work site.
The construction of this tunnel is expected to benefit pilgrims, providing an all-weather connectivity and reducing 25.6-km snow-affected NH-134 (Dharasu-Barkot-Yamunotri road) to 4.531 km, resulting in the reduction of travel time to 5 minutes, from 50 minutes at present.
The work commenced on 9 July 2018 with intended completion by 8 July 2022. The work is delayed, with present progress of work at 56 per cent and likely completion date expected to be 14 May 2024.
At present, heading in about 4,060 m, which is 90 per cent length, is completed and excavation work for 477 m length is going on, along with other activities of benching for the portion.
Heading is done up to 2,350 m from Silkyara side and up to 1,710 m from Barkot side. Communication with trapped workers has also been established through walkie talkies.
For evacuation, availability of man, material and machinery are identified and being mobilised, along with experts of irrigation department. All coordinated efforts are being made to evacuate the stranded workforce at the earliest.
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