Officials hinted to a potential breakthrough on Wednesday.After a protracted rescue operation characterized by several failures, Indian officials said on Tuesday that they were getting close to rescuing 41 workers who had been buried in the debris of a collapsed tunnel for 16 days.
To test the ambulance’s ability to reach the stranded individuals, one was dispatched into a route made by excavators. After excavating more than 55 meters into the debris, rescue personnel are only a few meters away from the individuals in need of assistance.
After days of stagnant attempts to approach the buried workers—whose plight has drawn the attention of the most populated country on earth—an apparent breakthrough has occurred.
What took place?
On November 12, early in the morning, a tunnel that was still under construction collapsed in Uttarakhand, a state in northern India near the Himalayas.
Within the 4.5km (3 mile) area, 41 males worked as low-wage construction laborers. According to police, two of the laborers were local, while the majority came from other northern and eastern Indian states.
Under the auspicious Char Dham pilgrimage initiative spearheaded by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the Silkyara Bend-Barkot Tunnel was being built. Between Silkyara and Dandalgaon, the building connects four important Hindu pilgrimage sites. The bidirectional road project has a $1.5 million price tag.
Excavators cleared the wreckage from the tunnel a day after it collapsed, and rescue personnel made touch with the individuals trapped within. A strategy was developed to drill to the soldiers through the wreckage.
What caused the tunnel to collapse?
Although the region is prone to landslides, earthquakes, and floods, the authorities have not disclosed the reasons behind the tunnel collapse.
Al Jazeera was informed by geologist C P Rajendran that the Himalayan region is “continually plagued by stability issues” and has extremely brittle rock. He went on to say that this is not an isolated incident and that “we are constantly witnessing disaster after disaster” while building roads or tunnels in areas of comparable terrain.
How did the laborers manage to survive?
A little conduit was built into the tunnel once the rubble was removed, enabling the entry of food, water, oxygen, medicine, light, and walkie-talkies. Nuts, chickpeas, and puffed rice along with other dried fruits were given.Cooked food items such as rice, lentils, soybeans, and peas were supplied to the laborers via a recently constructed, broader pipeline.
A doctor who spoke with the employees, Prem Pokhriyal, told Reuters, “They demanded chewable vitamin C tablets and it was provided.” “Everyone looks healthy and fine as of right now.”
A six-bed hospital was set up close to the tunnel, and other hospitals were instructed to maintain standby. Forty ambulances and fifteen physicians were parked close by.
Medication was given to several of the detained soldiers because they complained of headaches, nausea, and diarrhea.
The 41 men were told by state government-sent psychiatrist Abhishek Sharma to walk inside the 2 km (1.2 mile) confinement area, prioritize sleep, perform mild yoga poses, and engage in frequent conversation among themselves as a means of keeping themselves engaged.
A Hindu priest was sitting nearby last Wednesday, offering prayers for the men who were stranded.
How was the video captured in the tunnel?
On Monday, a medical endoscopic camera was put via the larger pipeline into the tunnel. A 30-second video that showed the workers for the first time since they were locked was published last week.
One by one, a rescue worker outside was heard instructing the guys to come forward in front of the camera so that their identities could be verified using the walkie-talkie equipment that had been provided inside.
Who is in charge of the rescue operations?
In command has been a group of fifteen personnel from the Indian National Disaster Response Force (NDRF).
The rescue efforts have involved about 80 police officers, 20 fire service representatives, and 60 disaster management representatives.
While they awaited the delivery of a large steel pipe that would act as a means of escape for the workers, the excavators worked horizontally through the rubble.About three days following the tunnel collapse, large machinery was put into place.
But massive boulders blocked the machine’s path. Consequently, more equipment was ordered from New Delhi. The rescue squad had to deal with other difficulties as well. Not only did loose material fall into the tunnel, but it was also blocked by boulders, cement rocks, and iron rods.
On November 17, a large-scale cracking sound from a drilling equipment alarmed officials, who briefly suspended the rescue effort. This was a major obstacle in the rescue effort. Additionally, the augur machine encountered a problem that resulted in broken bearings, which required engineers to create new ones.
A new equipment was airlifted from the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh a week after the tunnel caved, and the crew chose to drill through the tunnel vertically while concurrently drilling horizontally.
Nevertheless, when the rescuers came across a lattice steel sheet on Thursday, the majority of the rubble was drilled through. Cutting through took several hours.
What safety precautions are being implemented for the other tunnels?
The National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) will conduct a safety evaluation of the 29 tunnels it has been building in the wake of this event. Twelve of them will be located in the Himalayan state of Himachal Pradesh, six in the area of Jammu and Kashmir, and the remaining ones in other states, such as Uttarakhand.
According to Rajendran, “proper site investigation is very important for tunnelling in a site like this,” adding that before beginning construction, fundamental studies must be completed to ascertain the composition of the rock in a hilly terrain.