Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday said that the government and all the agencies together are leaving no stone unturned to evacuate the workers trapped in the Uttarakhand tunnel for the last two weeks and that people should pray for them to get out safely and as soon as possible.
The Prime Minister said that nature is constantly throwing challenges towards the rescue operation, underway to bring the trapped men out.
Multi-agency rescue operations are being carried out on a war footing since a portion of the Silkyara tunnel in the Uttarkashi district of the northern state collapsed following a landslide on November 12, leaving 41 workers trapped behind a huge mound of debris.
PM Modi while attending the ‘Koti Deepotsavam’ programme at NTR stadium here, PM Modi said that “we should remember the men, trapped in the Uttarakhand tunnel, in our prayers for their speedy evacuation.”
“Today when we are praying to Gods and Goddesses and talking about the welfare of humanity, we also have to give place in our prayers to those labourers who are stuck in a tunnel in Uttarakhand for the last two weeks,” PM Modi said.
He said that the government and all the agencies together are leaving no stone unturned to get them out of the crisis. “But we have to complete this relief and rescue work very cautiously,” he said.
“In this campaign, nature is constantly giving us challenges, but we are standing firm and trying round the clock,” the Prime Minister said, adding that we have to pray for those workers to get out safely and as soon as possible.
Notably, five options have been decided to evacuate the trapped men, and five different agencies were detailed to carry out these options.
The rescue operation faced a setback on Saturday after the American Auger machine, being used for horizontal drilling, was busted.
Officials said that the drilling work, which was earlier done through the diesel-driven 1,750-horse power machine, will be done manually now.
Among the trapped labourers, two each are from Uttarakhand and Assam, one from Himachal, eight from Uttar Pradesh, five each from Bihar and Odisha, three from West Bengal, and 15 others are from Jharkhand.
Officials informed that the 41 workers trapped inside the tunnel are stable and safe.
Earlier in the day, a delegation led by Principal Secretary to Prime Minister, PK Mishra visited the site and took stock of ongoing rescue efforts. Union Home Secretary Ajay Kumar Bhalla and Uttarakhand Chief Secretary SS Sandhu along with Pramod Kumar Mishra inspected the work inside the tunnel.
Moreover, National Highways and Infrastructure Development Corporation Limited (NHIDCL) Managing Director Mahmood Ahmad earlier today informed that the vertical drilling of 36 meters has been completed inside the Uttarkashi’s Silkayara tunnel.
NHIDCL said that vertical drilling of another 50 meters is required to reach the crust of the tunnel.
Addressing a press conference, NHIDCL Mahmood Ahmad said, “The work of vertical drilling is also going on which is being executed by SJVNL. As of now, vertical drilling of 36 meters has been completed.
We have to drill 50 meters more. We will take all actions, and we hope that we move forward quickly.”
Neeraj Khairwal, Secretary, Uttarakhand Government, said that timelines for the drilling operations in totality cannot be assumed.
“After taking out the part of Auger that was struck inside the tunnel.
1.9 meters that was cut, in that, the first 220 mm was pushed, and was taken out. There was concern that it may not be pushed, but now we won’t have to go on an alternative method. Then again 500 mm was pushed. Rat miners pushed that part,” the official said.
“A time limit cannot be given, but let’s hope and pray that minimum obstacles occur and we will be able to do this quickly,” he added.
Earlier, National Disaster Management Authority Member, Lt General (Rtd) Syed Ata Hasnain on Sunday said that 86 meters of vertical drilling is required to reach the crust of the Uttarkashi’s tunnel.
Also, National Disaster Management Authority Member, Lt General (Rtd) Syed Ata Hasnain on Monday that currently, the situation inside the tunnel is under control.
“Things are under control. Food and medicine are going inside as per requirements. Psychological aspects are also given importance.
Backup communications have been established. Our plan two was vertical drilling. Now approximately 30 metres have been achieved,” he said.
NDMA member further informed that the broken blades of the auger machine have been fully retrieved.
“The broken blades of the auger machine that were not completely retrieved yesterday have been fully retrieved in the morning today. There were some obstacles while doing so, but the damage has now been fixed. Now, the manual technique will be employed tonight with the help of Indian Army engineers, rat miners, and other technicians,” he said.
Meanwhile, Micro tunnelling expert Chris Cooper said earlier today that all the debris from the auger machine has been removed and manual drilling to reach the trapped labourers will start in a few hours.