- Two trapped workers brought out from Uttarakhand tunnel on stretchers on Day 17 of rescue operations: NDTV
- NDRF, SDRF men will go inside Uttarakhand tunnel and bring trapped workers out on wheeled stretchers one by one, says a rescuer, reports PTI
- IAF chopper on standby near tunnel mishap site, chopper can be used in case any of the rescued workers need urgent medical aid; they can be airlifted either from the tunnel site to the Chinyalisaur hospital (a distance of 30 km) or flown to the premier All India Institute of Medical Sciences in Rishikesh (a distance of around 160 km): NDTV
- It will take 3-4 hours to evacuate workers from Silkyara tunnel after breakthrough is achieved: NDMA, reports PTI
- All security, safety precautions being taken for workers trapped inside Silkyara tunnel and for those engaged in rescue operations: NDMA
Rescue workers on Tuesday drilled through the 60-metre stretch of rubble of the collapsed Silkyara tunnel in which 41 workers are trapped for the last 16 days, officials said.
State government's information department chief Bansi Dhar Tiwari told reporters a little after 1.30 pm that the drilling was over.
Less than an hour later, Uttarakhand Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami said the process of laying the escape pipe into the drilled passage was complete. “Soon all brother workers will be brought out,” he posted on social media.
Earlier, NHIDCL managing director Mahmood Ahmed did not immediately confirm that the drilling work was over. He told reporters that the last section of the pipe was being pushed through.
National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) personnel were expected to enter the steel chute pushed into the drilled passage over the past several days and then bring out the workers one-by-one.
Going by the practised drill, each worker will lie down on a wheeled stretcher that would be pulled by rescue workers outside using ropes. This was expected to take about two or three hours.
Anticipation had been building up at the disaster site on the Char Dham route hours before the news broke outside.
Ambulances ready, road being repaired
Ambulances were lining up at the mouth of the tunnel to rush the rescued workers as they are brought of the steel chute one by one to a community health centre.
A stretch of mud road was re-laid to make passage of ambulances easier. The road outside the tunnel, which became uneven due to regular movement of heavy vehicles over the past fortnight was being repaired and a fresh layer of soil was being laid for smooth movement of ambulances. Stretchers were being taken inside the mouth of the tunnel.
As the information about the “breakthrough” emerged, some workers outside chanted “Jai Shri Ram”.
Earlier, L&T team leader Chris Cooper predicted an early end to the workers’ ordeal. “It is likely that they will be out before 5 pm," he told reporters. He said vertical drilling, the simultaneous drilling operation to reach the workers from above the tunnel, had now been called off.
Officials decided to switch to manual boring to break through the last 10 metres of the rubble after the heavy-duty auger drilling machine got stuck in the rubble on Friday.
Twelve rat-hole mining experts were called in to finish the last stretch of drilling using hand-held tools in a confined space.
A special ward with 41 oxygen-supported beds was readied days earlier at the community health centre in Chinyalisaur, about 30 km from Silkyara, for the rescued workers.
Doctors were standing by and arrangements made to fly the workers to more advanced hospitals, if needed.
A separate ward comprising 41 oxygen-supported beds has been readied at the community health centre in Chinyalisaur, about 30 km from Silkyara, for the workers.
Senior police officers briefed the security personnel outside the tunnel to spring into action the moment workers start coming out of the escape passage being prepared for them. Pipes have been inserted up to 52 metres through the rubble at Silkyara tunnel, Uttarakhand Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami said on Tuesday as efforts to rescue the 41 workers trapped there continued for the 17th day. The breakthrough point is 57 metres, he told reporters in Silkyara.
Rescuers need to dig through around 10 metres of rubble using rat-hole mining technique to bring out the workers. This drilling was earlier carried out by a huge auger machine that got stuck in the rubble on Friday at around 47 metres.
A skilled team of workers began removing the muck by hand using the rat-hole mining technique on Monday while 800-mm diameter pipes were being pushed through the rubble by an auger machine.
"Pipe has gone in up to 52 metres. Earlier, it was at 51 metres. It was pushed one metre further in my presence. It will be pushed two metres more to 54 metres after which one more pipe will be laid," Dhami said.
When asked whether there were hurdles on the way, he said steel and iron girders were not being encountered. "Stones are coming in the way but they are being broken using cutters," the chief minister said.