This development, termed the “first breakthrough” by Anshu Manish Khalkho, director of the National Highways and Infrastructure Development Corporation Limited (NHIDCL), aims to facilitate the supply of larger quantities of food and potentially enable live visuals of the 41 workers trapped inside for eight days.
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Previously, a four-inch tube had been used to deliver oxygen, dry fruits, and medicines to the section of the tunnel beyond the collapsed portion. The NHIDCL director stated that the new pipeline, extended 53 meters beyond the rubble, allows rescuers to communicate with the trapped workers. Drones and robots from the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) are also being deployed to explore additional escape routes.
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Horizontal drilling through the debris is temporarily halted due to a boulder obstructing the progress of the heavy-duty auger machine. Rescuers are considering drilling more than 80 meters into the hill, and international tunnelling expert Arnold Dix is on-site to assess the rescue efforts.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in his third conversation with Uttarakhand Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami, emphasized the need to boost the morale of the trapped workers. The six-inch pipeline is expected to enhance communication, allowing the transmission of visuals and the delivery of a wider range of essentials, including porridge, khichdi, and sliced fruits.
The NHIDCL director outlined the plan to remove the drill bit from the pipeline, enabling the delivery of food, medicines, and other necessities to the trapped workers. Endoscopy-like camera equipment from Delhi is expected to be sent through the pipeline, facilitating visual communication between rescuers and those inside the tunnel.
Psychiatrists have been engaged to support the mental well-being of the trapped workers and their families, and medical teams are stationed at the site. The Uttarakhand government has pledged to cover the travel, food, and lodging expenses of the relatives of the trapped workers. Leader of Opposition Yashpal Arya has called for a CBI inquiry monitored by the Chief Justice of the Uttarakhand High Court to investigate potential lapses in project execution leading to the disaster.
(With agency inputs)