41 workers trapped in Uttarkashi tunnel get multivitamins, antidepressants, dry fruits

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Nitin Gadkari and Uttarakhand Chief Minister Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami leave after reviewing the rescue operation after a portion of an under-construction tunnel between Silkyara and Dandalgaon on the Brahmakhal-Yamunotri national highway collapsed, in Uttarkashi district, Sunday, Nov. 19, 2023.

Nitin Gadkari and Uttarakhand Chief Minister Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami leave after reviewing the rescue operation after a portion of an under-construction tunnel between Silkyara and Dandalgaon on the Brahmakhal-Yamunotri national highway collapsed, in Uttarkashi district, Sunday, Nov. 19, 2023.

New Delhi: The government is sending multivitamins, antidepressants and dry fruits to 41 workers trapped for the past seven days in an under-construction tunnel that collapsed in the Uttarkashi district of Uttarakhand, Road, Transport and Highways Secretary Anurag Jain said on Sunday.

"Fortunately, there is light inside because the electricity is on. There is a pipeline, and thus water is available. There is a 4-inch pipe, which was used for compression. Through that, we are sending food from day 1," he said.

Jain, in a video brief update on the Uttarkashi tunnel collapse rescue operation, further said there is water and electricity in two km portion inside the tunnel, which is the finished part of the 4.531-kilometre two lane bi-directional tunnel at Silkyara in Uttarkashi.

"We are sending multivitamins, antidepressants and dry fruits to workers who have been trapped inside the under-construction tunnel at Silkyara in Uttarkashi," he said.

The Silkyara tunnel, about 30 km from the district headquarters of Uttarkashi and a seven-hour drive from the Uttarakhand capital Dehradun, is part of the ambitious Char Dham all-weather road project of the central government.

The tunnel is being constructed under the National Highways and Infrastructure Development Corporation Limited (NHIDCL).

The tunnel collapsed around 5.30 am last Sunday. The rescue operation was suspended on Friday afternoon when a US-made auger machine deployed to drill and push in pipes through the rubble to prepare an escape passage for the workers developed a snag that exacerbated the anxiety.

By the time drilling was halted, the auger machine had drilled up to 24 metres through the rubble, spread over a 60-metre area inside the tunnel.

The Union government also held a high-level meeting on Saturday where five options to rescue the workers were discussed with different agencies assigned with specific alternatives to work on.

NHIDCL MD Mahmood Ahmed has been made in charge of coordination with all the central agencies and has been stationed in Silkyara.  ONGC, RVNL, Satluj Jal Vikas Nigam Ltd, BRO and state PWD, besides NHIDCL, will be the agencies carrying out different responsibilities to establish early access to the trapped workers.

Rescue operations stalled around 2.45 pm on Friday. During the positioning of a fifth pipe, a big cracking sound was heard in the tunnel, after which rescue operation was suspended immediately, a statement from NHIDCL -- tasked with the construction of the tunnel -- said on Friday night.

The sound created panic among the rescue team. An expert involved with the project warned about the possibility of further collapse in the vicinity. Subsequently, the pipe-pushing activity was stopped.

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