Manual horizontal drilling was still underway in the Uttarakhand tunnel where 41 men had been trapped for more than two weeks as of Tuesday morning. The work is being carried out by rathole mining experts who were called in on Monday and the process began yesterday evening.
Meanwhile, as of Tuesday morning, vertical drilling above the tunnel had reached a depth of 42 metres, out of a required depth of 86 metres. Rescuers hope to free the workers through the one-metre-wide shaft by Thursday when the roof of the tunnel is breached.
Drilling work earlier was being carried out by a huge auger drill that got stuck in the rubble on Friday, forcing officials to focus on another option – drilling down from above the tunnel .
Uttarkashi Tunnel Rescue: Latest Developments
1. On Monday, a team of Rat Hole mining experts began manual drilling in the rubble to rescue 41 trapped workers. Around 12 rat hole mining experts are reportedly carrying out horizontal manual drilling and excavation of the last 10 or 12 meters of debris in the collapsed portion of the tunnel under construction on the Char Dham route in Uttarakhand.
Rathole mining is a controversial and dangerous procedure in which miners enter narrow caves in small teams to excavate small amounts of coal.
2. For the plan to cut horizontally through the rubble, officials decided that the final stretch would be handled by manual methods, with individual workers using drills and gas cutters to access escape routes to tackle obstacles such as iron beams. By Monday evening, the final section of the stuck auger had been cut away piece by piece, and a steel pipe was inserted further into the partially intact escape tunnel.
3. Regarding the rescue operation, micro-tunneling expert Chris Cooper told ANI on Tuesday, “It went well last night. We have traversed 50 meters. There are about 5-6 meters left now… We didn’t have any obstacles yesterday. Late. Looking very positive…”
4. Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister PK Mishra, Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla and Uttarakhand Chief Secretary SS Sandhu came to Silkyara on Monday to take stock of the operation. Mishra spoke to the trapped workers and assured them that multiple agencies were working to evacuate them and that they should remain patient.
5. National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) member Lieutenant General Syed Atta Hasnan (retd) said the health condition of the workers was very good. He said it was difficult to give a timetable for manual operations at this stage.
6. NDMA members said that the meteorological department has issued a yellow alert, indicating light rain. “But work cannot be hampered by this,” he added. He said Mishra has directed officials to ensure that all medical facilities are provided to the stranded workers as “difficulties are likely to increase with time”.
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