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Uttarkashi (Uttarakhand) [India], November 20 (ANI): The government said on Monday that rescue operations are continuing in full swing to save the 41 trapped workers at Silkyara Tunnel in Uttarkashi and constant communication is being maintained with efforts to keep up the morale of the workers trapped in the two km-built tunnel portion.

A Ministry of Road Transport and Highways release said that electricity and water are available in this portion of the tunnel and workers are provided food items and medicines through 4-inch compressor pipeline.

"Today, a major breakthrough has been achieved when National Highways and Infrastructure Development Corporation Limited (NHIDCL) completed drilling of another six-inches diameter pipeline for supply of food, medicines and other essential items," the release said.

"Rescue operations continue in full swing to save the 41 trapped workers at Silkyara Tunnel in Uttarkashi. Committed to saving precious lives of all the workers, the Government is keeping constant communication and making all efforts to keep up the morale of the workers trapped in the 2 km-built tunnel portion. This two-km portion of tunnel is complete including concrete work that provides safety to the workers," it added.

The release said Rail Vikas Nigam Limited (RVNL) is working on another vertical pipeline for the supply of essential items.

It said various government agencies have been involved in the rescue operation and have been assigned specific tasks.

"These agencies are working tirelessly for the safe evacuation of the workers," the release said.

Referring to operations for the rescue of labourers, the release said that horizontal boring by NHIDCL from Silkyara end for the rescue of workers through Augur boring machine is scheduled to recommence Monday evening.

It said the first machine of SJVNL for the construction of the vertical rescue tunnel has already reached the tunnel site and operations are being commenced post-completion of the access road by the Border Roads Organisation.

Two other machines are being brought for the vertical tunnel construction from Gujarat and Odisha through the road. Work on the construction of a rescue tunnel of 480 metres from Barkot end by Tehri Hydroelectric Development Corporation has commenced.

The release said that machinery for micro-tunneling by Rail Vikas Nigam Limited through horizontal drilling for the rescue of labourers is being transported from Nashik and Delhi.

Machinery for vertical boring are being mobilized by ONGC from USA, MumbaiGhaziabad.

The release said that BRO has done commendable work and the approach road for vertical drilling of RVNL and SJVNL has been constructed within 48 hours. Work is continuing for the approach road for ONGC also.

It was reported on November 12 that a collapse occurred in under under-construction tunnel from Silkyara to Barkot due to the falling of muck in the 60-meter stretch in the Silkyara side of tunnel. After the incident, the Uttarakhand Government and the Centre mobilised resources immediately for the rescue of the 41 trapped labourers.

The release said it was decided to lay a 900 mm pipe through the muck as it was the best and fastest possible solution as per the experts' advice.

However, on November 17, because of ground movement, it became unsafe to continue with this option without securing the structure. Considering the lives involved, it was decided to move on all possible fronts together so that the workers can be rescued as early as possible.

The area in which the workers are trapped is 8.5 metres high and 2 km long. "This is the built up portion of the tunnel where concreting work has been done providing safety to the labourers. Electricity and water are also available in this portion of the tunnel," the release saidFive options were decided and five different agencies were detailed to carry out these options.

The release said that NHIDCL will continue to drill from Silkyara end after working safety arrangements. To facilitate this Army has prepared the box culvert. A canopy framework is being made to ensure workers' safety.

Sutlej Jal Vidyut Nigam Limited (SJVNL) is implementing vertical drilling to rescue the trapped labourers. Accordingly, equipment has been mobilized from Gujarat and Odisha through Railways as being 75-tonne equipment it could not be airlifted. ONGC, having expertise in deep drilling, had also started initial work for vertical drilling from Barkot end. (ANI)

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