New Delhi, Nov 28
The National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) said on Tuesday that the rescue operation in Uttarakhand's Silkyara tunnel in Uttarkashi is "near a breakthrough", but not yet there as rat miners and Army engineers have been able to cut through 58 metres of debris and pushed in pipe with the help of auger machine.
The NDMA also said that it will take at least three to four hours more to bring out the 41 workers, who have been trapped inside the under-construction tunnel for the past 17 days.
Addressing a press conference here, Lt Gen Syed Ata Hasnain (Retd), Member, NDMA, said, "It is estimated that it will take three to five minutes to evacuate each of the 41 persons."
He said the entire evacuation process is expected to take three to four hours, adding that three teams of NDRF will go in inside the tunnel to organise the evacuation while the SDRF will provide support.
Hasnain said that paramedics will also go inside the tunnel at the time of evacuation.
"We are at 58 metres inside and we are hoping that after two metres, we can say that it has passed through," he said.
He also pointed out that the trapped workers have said they can hear noise of work being done and an estimate can be made where the pipe will pass through.
"We are near a breakthrough, but not yet there. Our rat miners, experts and Army engineers have been able to take it to 58 metres and the pipe has been pushed with the help the auger machine," the NDMA member said.
He also said that all safety precautions will be implemented and no premature announcements are to be made, as that will be against all principles.
"We also have to take care of the safety and security of the people who are rescuing the workers... We are not in a hurry," he added.
Elaborating further, Hasnain said, "Chinook helicopter is present at the Chinyalisaur airstrip, but we will not fly it during the night. Since there is a delay, the workers will be brought the next morning."
He also said that a 30-bed facility set-up is ready in the district hospital, while a 10-bed facility is also ready at the site.
"If there is urgency, the workers can be taken to Rishikesh in ambulances," he said.
Meanwhile, Vishal Chauhan, Member of the National Highway Authority of India, said, "NHAI has again started the work of audit of all tunnels. We are working on this with Delhi Metro Rail Corporation and one other agency."
Earlier in the day, Uttarakhand Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami had said that the work of laying pipes in the tunnel to take out the workers has been completed and soon all will be brought out.
In a post on X, Dhami said, "With the grace of Baba Baukh Nag Ji and prayers of crores of people of the country and the tireless work of all the rescue teams engaged in the operation, the work of laying pipes in the tunnel to take out the workers has been completed."
"Soon all the labourer brothers will be taken out," he said.
The relief and rescue work is being carried out by scientists, international experts, NDRF, SDRF, Army and BRO on a war-footing.
On November 12, a part of the under-construction tunnel had collapsed.
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