A plasma cutter was flown in from Hyderabad on Sunday to cut and remove parts of the auger machine stuck in the rubble inside the Silkyara tunnel where 41 labourers have been stranded for the last 14 days.
A complete disengagement of the machine is necessary for the officials to resume the rescue work which involves manual pushing of pipes through rubble to prepare an escape passage.
A part of a drill machine has also been sent atop the hill, above the tunnel, for a vertical drilling.
A unit of Madras Sappers, an engineer group of the Corps of Engineers of the Indian Army, arrived at the site on Sunday to assist in the rescue operations.
International tunnelling expert Arnold Dix said the progress so far is fantastic. The plasma cutter has increased the speed of cutting parts of the auger stuck in the rubble, he said.
Work is underway to take the auger completely out of the passage where it is stuck.
Conducting of the tests to know the consolidation and composition of the rocks ahead of the start of vertical drilling from top of the tunnel from Silkyara side have also begun, an official said.
Blades of the auger machine drilling through the rubble of the collapsed Silkyara tunnel had got stuck in the debris Friday night, forcing officials to consider switching to other options that could drag the rescue operation by several days, or even weeks.
On day 14 of the multi-agency rescue mission, officials shifted focus to two alternatives -- manual drilling through the remaining 10- or 12-metre stretch of the rubble or, more likely, drilling down 86 metres from above.
The rescue effort began November 12 when a portion of the under-construction tunnel on Uttarakhand's Char Dham route collapsed following a landslide, cutting off the exit for the workers inside.
The workers are in a built-up two-kilometre stretch of the tunnel. They are being sent food, medicines and other essentials through the six-inch wide pipe.
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