HOPE TURNED into despair when the operation to rescue the three workers trapped inside an under-construction tunnel came to a halt Sunday after the advanced drilling machine, working for the past four days to drill a 40-meter vertical hole through the mountain, developed a major snag.
The machine was silent the whole day. An important spare part brought from Delhi Saturday night could do little to re-start it. The Himalayan Construction Company, which is building the tunnel, has now called a technician from Jaipur who will reach Monday morning to fix the machine.
- Bilaspur tunnel tragedy: 2 of the three trapped workers pulled out alive, search on for third
- Himachal tunnel collapse: Trapped workers likely to be rescued today
- Bilaspur tunnel collapse: One wants screwdriver, other asks why machine fell silent
- Himachal tunnel collapse: Rains pose new challenge for rescue operations
- Through snags and prayers, week-long rescue op at Himachal tunnel lurches towards end
- Himachal tunnel collapse: Drilling resume after snag in rig
This means the three workers will have to spend another night in the tunnel even as a 50-member strong team of engineers, technical supervisors, drilling experts and geologists are working round-the-clock to reach them.
The three workers, Satish Tomar, Mani Ram and Hriday Ram, were trapped after part of a Rs 82-crore under-construction traffic tunnel on the Kiratpur-Nerchowk-Manali National Highway collapsed at Ghumarwin in Bilaspur over a week ago, on the night of September 12. While Satish and Mani have responded to the line of emergency communication, no contact has yet been established with the third worker.
The operation appeared to have reached its final phase on Saturday, with the district administration saying the drilling was complete, and the “countdown” to reaching the workers had begun.
Rains also impeded the rescue operation Sunday. The bore dug at the mouth of the tunnel was filled with rainwater and a high-power pumping set had to be installed to dry it up.
A link road, built on the drilling site, also became slushy, making movement of rescue workers, vehicles as well as the machinery difficult. “There is some persistent technical problem with the machine. Experts are trying their best to sort it out. The operation has been stopped and can only be resumed when the machine is fixed. We are right at the site and will not leave the place until the workers are brought out,” Deputy Commissioner Mansi Sahay Thakue wrote on the WhatsApp group for media corps.
She, along with SP Balbir Thakur, also met the family members of the trapped workers and briefed them about the progress of the rescue operation.
Later in the day, the company pressed a small machine into action but it wasn’t effective enough.
Border Road Organisation Director (Tunnel) R S Rao, who is camping at the site to advise the district administration on the rescue operation, said, “The trapped workers are going to be out anytime now. We are very close to the end of the operation.”