Setback in Silkyara Tunnel Rescue: Drill Machine Failure Halts Operations

Times of India

In a critical turn of events, the ongoing rescue operation at the Silkyara tunnel in Uttarkashi faced a significant setback as the ‘American auger’ drill machine, airlifted from New Delhi via an IAF transport aircraft, encountered technical issues. The machine, designed for drilling through challenging terrain, failed to progress beyond 22 meters, forcing a suspension of multi-agency rescue operations since Friday afternoon. The trapped workers, isolated within the tunnel for seven days, now face prolonged uncertainty.

Officials revealed that the horizontal boring machine struggled to navigate through the debris piled up inside the tunnel, hampering the mission to reach the trapped workers. In response to the failed attempts, the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) assumed control of the rescue efforts on Saturday, issuing a late-night statement affirming the government’s commitment to saving the lives of the laborers.

The PMO announced a strategic shift, exploring various options based on technical advice to overcome the challenges posed by the tunnel’s conditions. A high-level meeting resulted in the identification of five specific options, with NHIDCL, ONGC, SJVNL, THDC, and RVNL each assigned a distinct role. Mahmood Ahmed, the Managing Director of NHIDCL and the executing agency of the tunnel project, was appointed as the coordinator to facilitate communication and coordination among the involved agencies.

To enhance redundancy in food support for the trapped workers, additional pipes were planned. In a parallel move, the state government appointed IAS officer Neeraj Khairwal as the nodal officer for coordination, further emphasizing the urgency and importance of the rescue mission.

Bhaskar Khulbe, a former secretary to the Prime Minister and current advisor to the state government, visited the site on Saturday and expressed cautious optimism. Khulbe stated, “We are looking at a maximum of 4 to 5 days to complete this operation. We might achieve it before that time as well. The plan is to carry out work on all the discussed options simultaneously.”

As rescue efforts intensify, the collective focus remains on leveraging technical expertise and a coordinated approach to overcome the challenges posed by the tunnel’s conditions. The race against time continues as authorities strive to bring the trapped workers to safety and restore normalcy to the Silkyara tunnel.