Rescue teams carve an access road as part of the Uttarakhand tunnel collapse operation.

In the ongoing rescue operation in Uttarkashi, where 41 workers have been trapped in a collapsed tunnel for over a week, multiple strategies are being employed. Rescuers are adopting a five-pronged approach, including carving a mountaintop track to reach the tunnel’s top for a vertical hole extraction. Two “lifelines” are being used—one horizontally through the debris wall for food delivery and another vertically from the tunnel’s top.

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Union minister Nitin Gadkari, visiting the site, emphasized exploring all options. The trapped workers have been stuck since November 12 in the tunnel, a crucial part of the Chardham all-weather road project. Rescue alternatives involve drilling from both tunnel ends, vertical drilling from the top, and perpendicular drilling.

Various agencies, including ONGC, SJVNL, RVNL, NHIDCL, and THDCL, are engaged in the operation. NHIDCL is creating a food pipeline, with ongoing drilling from the Silkyara end. The Army’s preparation and safety measures are crucial, and simultaneous drilling efforts are underway.

Despite challenges due to the non-uniform soil strata in the Himalayan region, horizontal drilling with an American auger is considered the quickest method. The rescue operation faced setbacks, including a pause due to a cracking sound during pipe positioning and damages to the augur machine.

Gadkari expressed optimism about the auger machine’s potential success in rescuing workers within the next few days, provided technical challenges are overcome. The complexity of the Himalayan soil adds to the difficulty of the rescue mission, highlighting the intricacies of the ongoing efforts.

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