40 construction workers have been trapped under debris for over 120 hours following a tunnel collapse in Uttarakhand. The incident occurred on November 12 when a section of the under-construction Silkyara Tunnel caved in, entangling the workers. International elite rescue teams, including experts from Thailand and Norway, known for their successful cave rescue mission in Thailand in 2018, have joined forces for the ongoing rescue operation.
Rescue efforts have seen significant progress as teams have drilled up to 30 meters into the debris and installed five pipes to provide essential supplies of food and oxygen to the trapped workers. However, the critical situation demands comprehensive rehabilitation for the workers, with doctors expressing worries about potential mental and physical recovery processes due to their extended confinement.
Construction sites inherently pose various risks, and falling debris is a major concern. The impact of such incidents can lead to severe injuries, including fractures and open wounds. These injuries are further compounded by unsanitary conditions, heightening the risk of infections. Dr. Ajay Kaul, Chairman of Cardiac Sciences at Fortis Hospital, Noida, highlighted the dangers of collective breathing in a closed space, where elevated carbon dioxide levels can worsen breathing problems, potentially leading to asphyxia (suffocation).
A crucial turning point in the rescue efforts came with the deployment of an ‘American auger’ machine, airlifted from New Delhi. This specialized equipment, known for its efficiency and power, is anticipated to cut through 70 meters of rock, a significant portion of which collapsed from the roof during previous rescue attempts. The machine operates at a “theoretical speed” of 5 meters per hour, and its arrival signals renewed hope for the trapped workers.
The ‘American auger’ machine arrived disassembled at the Chinyalisaur airport, situated over 30 kilometers from the collapsed tunnel on the Char Dham pilgrimage route. The strategy is to employ this advanced machine to excavate a passage through the debris of the collapsed tunnel section, creating a pathway to reach the trapped workers efficiently. The urgency in the rescue mission is underscored by the potential hazards posed by the prolonged confinement, emphasizing the need for swift and effective action.
It is essential to note that the under-construction tunnel is part of the ambitious Char Dham project, a national infrastructure initiative aimed at enhancing connectivity to Hindu pilgrimage sites, including Badrinath, Kedarnath, Gangotri, and Yamunotri.