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Trapped workers spend one more night in Uttarakhand tunnel as technical faults hamper rescue bid

Drilling was resumed on Friday afternoon, only to be stopped again shortly afterwards due to another encounter with a metal rod. DEHRADUN: Despite relentless efforts by rescue and relief teams on a war footing, the 41 labourers trapped in the Silkyara tunnel in Uttarakhand's Uttarkashi district were left disappointed on Friday as they had expected their ordeal to finally come to an end. With technical problems hampering the rescue operation, the labourers will have to spend another night in the tunnel. Engineers have faced several hurdles in their efforts to rescue the labourers trapped inside a collapsed section of the tunnel. On Thursday, during a drilling operation, the Auger machine stopped after colliding with a metal object. Drilling was resumed on Friday afternoon, only to be stopped again shortly afterwards due to another encounter with a metal rod. Amid regular drilling from the Auger machine as well as continuous supply of food and dry fruits and counselling by psychiatrists at regular intervals, the 41 labourers who have been confined in a collapsed portion of the tunnel 13 days ago are now eager to see a glimpse of the sun in the open sky very soon. Col Deepak Patil, who is in charge of the rescue operation, told TNIE, "With resumption of drilling by the Auger machine, two more pipes will be welded and pushed in using the Jack drill and pushing method. This work will take about maximum six hours, so the rescue is expected to be completed by Saturday afternoon." The major time-consuming factor is the welding of pipes, with each pipe taking about 90 minutes to two hours to weld. "The drilling work was being affected till Friday afternoon due to repeated encounters of iron objects with the machine," Col Patil said, adding, "At present, drilling up to 47 metres has been done, while about ten metres more are yet to be drilled." Instead of relying only on horizontal drilling, the government has also started working on the option of vertical drilling. According to an official source, "The 1150-metre access road has been completed by the BRO and handed over to the RVNL. The machine has been taken to the location by the BRO for drilling. The identification of drilling points over the tunnel has been finalised after discussions with GSI, RVNL and ONGC." According to information received from sources in Silkyara, the relief team has been facing obstacles such as iron nets, girders and iron rods since Wednesday night. Even on Friday, engineers of the rescue team spent the whole day struggling with these difficulties. Technicians are working day and night to remove these obstacles. During this time, machines and pipes were also broken in cutting through the iron mesh and other barriers. A source at the rescue camp at Silkyara said, "A team of six tunneling-mining specialist engineers from Bengaluru-based Squadron Infra reached the tunnel and explained the situation inside with artificial intelligence, which helped a lot in executing the operation." Additionally, the company has sent two advanced drones along with six mining engineers, drone pilots, and geotechnical experts to assist with the rescue efforts. A company official Prabhat, who goes by his first name, said the team has used radar sensors and geophysical sensors inside the tunnel to identify obstacles within the debris. "These drones are capable of complete scanning of the debris in any location," Prabhat added. Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami on Friday took stock of the Silkyara tunnel rescue operation and also inquired about the progress. CM Dhami said, "This is a very challenging and risky rescue operation. The people involved in the operation will have to work day and night with full efficiency, capacity, readiness and caution to make the mission successful." (THE NEW INDIAN EXPRESS)