The forty-one workers who are trapped under a collapsed tunnel in Uttarakhand will be pulled out on wheeled stretchers one by one through a big pipe that is still being drilled to reach them, National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) Director General Atul Karwal told news agency PTI today.
The rescuers had also considered the option of making the workers crawl out one by one. Their health condition, however, may prevent them from crawling out on their own, following 12 days of living under the debris of the tunnel without any natural light and full meals, though they have been given supplies via small “lifeline” pipes.
The NDRF personnel will slide in through the pipe and once they reach the workers, they will use the stretchers to send out workers one by one, Mr Karwal said, according to PTI.
Every worker will be made to lie low on the stretcher to prevent their limbs from scrapping the welded pipe’s metal underside while NDRF personnel pull the stretcher with a rope, officials said.
The rescue operation to bring out the 41 workers trapped in Uttarakhand’s Silkyara tunnel resumed this morning after an iron mesh that had come in the path of the auger machine drilling an escape path was removed.
The 800-mm diameter rescue pipe will be cleaned by the NDRF and its state counterpart to ensure no debris prevents the movement of the stretchers, Mr Karwal said, adding the pipe is wide enough to bring out the workers.
“These 800-mm pipes have a width of nearly 32 inches, which is enough. Even if we get a width of 22-24 inches, we can pull out people through them. Our men have carried out rehearsals for the exercise,” Mr Karwal said.
As the auger machine drills through, pipes are being pushed through the debris. Once a pipe is all in, another is welded to it. In this manner, the escape route is being prepped for the trapped workers out of their long confinement. Welders have been flown in from Delhi to put together the final stretch of the pipe. They will get to work once the drilling ends.
“The next pipe is being welded now. We plan to drill two more pipes now so that we achieve a length of up to 60 metres through the rubble to get some extended space,” Mr Karwal said.
The NDRF chief said Uttarakhand Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami talked to the trapped workers and they appeared to be in good spirits.
“People who work in tunnels are mentally tough and they are aware of the huge efforts being carried out to evacuate them. So they are optimistic,” Mr Karwal said.
A 2-km section of the tunnel where concrete work has been completed is the focus of the rescue efforts as this secured section has electricity, water supply and a new six-inch-diameter pipe to deliver cooked food and medicines, apart from the existing four-inch-diameter lifeline.
Using the second lifeline, the trapped workers are being given foods like roti, subzi, khichdi, daliya, oranges and bananas, and medicines and other essentials such T-shirts, undergarments, toothpaste and soap.
With inputs from PTI