First images of 41 labourers, who were trapped for more than a week in under construction Silkyara Bend - Barkot tunnel in Uttarakhand's Uttarkashi district, have shown that they are all sage.

The video, filmed with the help of endoscopic flexi camera, was made public on Tuesday by the authorities. In the video, it can be seen that all workers are safe, and getting supply of food and other essentials, giving relief to the families of the trapped labourers. 

Tunnel collapse
Uttarkashi tunnel collapseIANS

The workers were contacted via WiFi walkie talkie in which they demanded evacuation as soon as possible. Uttarakahand Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami, who visited the site, has enquired with the officials about the rescue measures being undertaken.

On November 12, a portion of the under-construction tunnel from Silkyara to Barkot collpased due to debris falling in the 60 metre stretch on Silkyara side of tunnel, raising concerns about the environmental impact of tunnels.

Uttarkashi tunnel collapse
Uttarkashi tunnel collapseIANS

An Auger drilling machine began to operate to expedite the process of digging through the debris and rescuing the people on the fifth day from Delhi by the Indian Air Force's Hercules cargo aircraft that can drill five to six metres per hour.

National Highways and Infrastructure Development Corporation Ltd. (NHIDCL) Director Anshu Manish Khalkho said that the 25 ton heavy Auger machine drills five to six metres per hour, hoping that the trapped labourers can be rescued in the next 10 to 15 hours but the move failed.

All the 40 workers are trapped in a 2-km empty space inside the tunnel where there is some light and the authorities are sending food and water to them, said Union Minister V.K. Singh who visited the site on Thursday.

Vertical Tunnel Now

On Tuesday, the authorities said that they would drill the tunnel vertically to create an evacuation passage. Thick pipes have been brought to the Silkyara Tunnel by helicopter from Odisha and a large vertical drilling machine has been brought to create the evacuation passage.

These heavy-duty pipes and the vertical drilling machine will be taken to the mountain above the tunnel for boring, officials said. Arnold Dix, an international tunneling expert from Australia, has been roped in  and the officials said the location for drilling above the tunnel has been identified.

Environmental Concerns: Manish Khanduri 

Reacting to the tunnel collapse, Uttarakhand Congress leader Manish Khanduri said, "We are now worried about the ecological aspect of development in the Hills. We are playing with Mother nature, and have not learned our lessons despite disasters or warnings in Raini, Joshimath and now Uttarkashi, all in the last 2 years." 

Manish Khanduri
Manish KhanduriFacebook

Khanduri, who has been raising concerns over the environmental impact of major infrastructure projects in the state since the cracks developed in Joshimath are, forcing evacuation of thousands of people, said there are many more porjects in the pipeline which require attention. 

"There is a 125-km railway project from Rishikesh in the plains to Karnaprayag in the Hills and 80 km of this will be tunnels. Work is in full swing. And they are boring 80 km of tunnels in a region known for its unstable mountains ranges. With trains running through, who will guarantee that this is not another disaster waiting to happen in Uttarakhand?" he asked. 


(With additional inputs from agencies)