Tunnel collapse: Impatience growing among trapped men, kin as rescue work hits repeated hurdles

"Today we talked about 10 minutes.... He did not eat this morning. He told me that he does not want to eat.... We are very anxious now. He looked very stressed and impatient. He kept asking us when would they come out."
Rescue operations at Silkyara Tunnel
Rescue operations at Silkyara Tunnel

Uttarkashi | "He looked very stressed and impatient and kept asking us when would they come out," Sunita, whose brother-in-law Virender is among the 41 workers trapped inside the collapsed tunnel in Silkyara here for the past 13 days, said on Saturday.

Virender's plea summed up the mood among the trapped workers and their relatives who have gathered here. As the rescue effort hits one after another hurdles, hope is gradually giving way to impatience and disappointment.

After her interaction with Virender this morning, Sunita said, "Today we talked about 10 minutes.... He did not eat this morning. He told me that he does not want to eat.... We are very anxious now. He looked very stressed and impatient. He kept asking us when would they come out." Hailing from Bihar, she has come to the site along with her husband Devender and Virender's wife.

Virender's elder brother Devender said the authorities are giving them hope everyday but are yet to achieve success.

"For the last two days we are being assured by officials that they (trapped workers) are being evacuated soon but something or the other happens and the process gets delayed," Devender said in a tone of disappointment.

The communication between the trapped workers and their relatives is facilitated by a communication system set up through a six-inch wide pipe.

An endoscopic camera was also pushed through this pipe, allowing rescue workers and relatives of the trapped men to see the condition inside.

Rescuers are now trying to push wider pipes through the rubble to create an escape passage for the trapped workers.

Drilling at the collapsed portion of the tunnel has been halted since Friday as the the auger machine faced hurdles one after another. An tunnelling expert at the site said on Saturday the machine was broken.

Rescuers are now exploring other options such as drilling the remaining stretch of 10 to 12 metres manually or creating a vertical escape passage for the 41 labourers trapped inside.

The multi-agency rescue effort began November 12 when a portion of the under-construction tunnel on Uttarakhand's Char Dham route collapsed following a landslide, trapping workers inside.

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