ANI Photo | “No movement in last 24 hours…vertical drilling could commence in 48 hours”: Officials after Auger machine ‘finished’

National Disaster Management Authority Member, Lt General (Rtd) Syed Ata Hasnain on Saturday said that there has been no movement in the last 24 hours in the drilling work to rescue the 41 workers trapped in the Uttarkashi tunnel for 13 days.
The NDMA member said that a portion of the American-Auger machine was broken, blocking the potential escape route.
“The current update is that (in) the last 24 hours, there hasn’t been any movement within this bore tunnel that was being made for the rescue. Because…the Auger machine itself has had a bit of an accident. A portion of it (has actually) broken, and that broken portion has to be pulled out (of the escape pipe),” Hasnain told ANI.
He said that the tunnel is blocked at the moment, and work is going on to cut the broken portion and bring it out.
“For that, special machines and cutters have been flown in from different parts of the country by the Indian Air Force, and work on that aspect is about to begin sometime today, hopefully. As a result, there is no access being made through this particular route at the moment. But the good news is that the 41 workers are all safe and sound,” he added.
After a portion of the tunnel caved in on November 12, the debris falling in the 60-metre stretch on the Silkyara side of the tunnel trapped 41 labourers inside the under-construction structure.
The NDMA member said that the trapped labourers are ready for the ‘long haul’ inside the 2-km-built portion of the under-construction Silkyara tunnel.
“They are speaking to their relatives. The logistics are in place. The 6-inch and 4-inch pipes are all intact, the power line is intact, and the water is going inside. More relatives have arrived there. So as far as the psychological aspect is concerned and the physiological well-being (of the trapped men) is concerned, they are ready for the long haul,” Hasnain said.
Earlier in the day, international tunnel expert Arnold Dix, who is aiding in the rescue process, said that the Auger machine used in horizontal drilling is ‘finished’ and that there will be further use of the Auger machine.
Reacting to it, the NDMA member said that after the setback to the Auger machine, the drilling work, which was earlier done through the diesel-driven 1,750-horse power machine, will be done manually now.
“We were achieving a 4-5 per metre speed earlier (with Auger). This will be reduced quite drastically,” he said.
Notably, five options have been decided to evacuate the trapped men, and five different agencies were detailed to carry out these options.
As part of this, the Sutlej Jal Vidyut Nigam Limited (SJVNL) is implementing vertical drilling to rescue the trapped labourers.
On the update on vertical drilling, the NDMA member said, “The machine which was to come and be taken to the top of the tunnel for the top-down drilling has reached and is being emplaced on the plinth created.”
“We can not say when but (in) very near future, perhaps in the next 48 hours, the vertical drilling could commence,” he added.
Earlier in the day, addressing a press briefing in the national capital, Hasnain said that the rescue operation at Uttarkashi’s Silkyara tunnel has become technically complex adding that rescuers are working in an environment of unpredictability.
“You are seeing that this operation is getting technically complex. Earlier there were not many complexities and that is why some people in media were assuming timelines but we never gave timelines from our side. We are conducting rescue operations on hills. We are working in an environment of unpredictability,” he had told the presser

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