Rescuers explore new ways to reach trapped Indians

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Rescuers explore new ways to reach trapped Indians

By Anant Zanane in Uttarkashi and Nikhila Henry in DelhiBBC News

Getty Images
Rescue operations continue for over a fortnight in Uttarakhand

Authorities are working on new ways to reach 41 Indian workers stuck in a tunnel in Uttarakhand state after the main rescue plan faced a major delay.

Until now, rescuers drilled a hole horizontally in the rocks to allow the men to crawl through.

But the operation was halted after a drilling machine breakdown on Friday.

Workers have been stranded for two weeks after part of the tunnel collapsed due to a landslide.

The operation was difficult from the start, mainly due to the presence of falling rocks, loose earth and metal inside the tunnel.

Rescuers appeared to be making steady progress on Friday when the drilling machine broke down inside the tunnel after getting stuck on pieces of metal mixed in with the debris.

The machine was completely dismantled Monday morning.

Meanwhile, rescuers began digging vertically into the tunnel to plot an alternative route for the trapped men.

Officials say they are also exploring other techniques, including manual digging, to reach them more quickly.

Vertical drilling

As per the plan, rescuers will attempt to reach the workers from the top of Silkyara hill in Uttarakashi district, under which the tunnel was being constructed.

Authorities have already created access roads and platforms to reach the summit.

Rescuers will have to drill 86m (282ft) downward to reach the workers, almost double the distance of the horizontal route (46.6m)..

By Monday morning, authorities had successfully dug 31 meters deep into the tunnel.

Rescuers explore new ways to reach trapped Indians - 1Getty Images
A drilling machine is used to drill a vertical hole in the collapsed tunnel

Mahmood Ahmed, a senior official at the National Highways and Infrastructure Development Corporation, which is leading the rescue operations, said that at the given pace, the rescue operations could be completed in another 100 hours “if no further obstacles arise.” We “.

If the process goes smoothly, workers will be evacuated in buckets through the vertical hole, according to The Hindu newspaper.

Officials say bad weather, with approaching thunderstorms and the possibility of snowfall in the Himalayan region, could complicate the process – but add that they are prepared to deal with the situation.

Perpendicular drilling

Until now, authorities were working to send several pipes of varying widths through the estimated 60 m (197 ft) wall of debris to create a micro-tunnel through which workers could be transported on stretchers .

Now they also plan to drill 180m perpendicular to the main drilling site to create an alternative route to reach workers.

Rescuers explore new ways to reach trapped Indians - 3
Military personnel take part in rescue efforts

A platform was erected on Sunday to install the special drilling machines that will be used for this process, the Hindu newspaper reported.

But the authorities have not yet commented on the progress of the operation.

Manual digging

Rescuers had successfully drilled 34m horizontally, with only 12m remaining, when the auger failed on Friday.

The operation was suspended until emergency teams removed the machine from the tunnel, which was completed Monday morning.

Rescuers will now begin manually digging to remove remaining debris from the road.

But they will still use a drill to push the pipes into the opening, officials said.

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