SILKYARA MIRACLE: 17 DAYS, 67 METRES, 41 LIVES,
ONE INCREDIBLE RESCUE
On November 12, 2023, a collapse occurred in the under-construction tunnel from Silkyara to Barkot due to debris falling in a 60-metre stretch on the Silkyara side. Immediate mobilisation of resources by the State and Central Governments ensued to rescue the 41 trapped labourers.
Safety concerns in opting for a 900 mm pipe through the debris led to the exploration of multiple rescue options simultaneously. The area of entrapment, measuring 8.5 metres in height and 2 kilometres in length, is the built-up portion of the tunnel, offering safety to the labourers with available electricity and water supply.
After 17 painful days, all the 41 workers who were trapped in Uttarakhand's collapsed Silkyara-Barkot tunnel were rescued on Tuesday 28 November. When all efforts since November 12 including the use of a highly sophisticated auger machine, to rescue 41 workers trapped inside Uttarkashi’s, hit a setback in drilling 60 meters of mountains, a team of rat-hole miners achieved success.
Since the collapse of the tunnel, various government agencies worked tirelessly on each assigned task to ensure the safe evacuation of the workers. National and International experts were also present at the site to render advice on the rescue operation. Several machines, resources, and experts from across the country were tasked with ensuring the safe rescue of workers. Many experts were involved in what is being touted as one of the country's biggest rescue operations.
Since the collapse of the tunnel, various government agencies worked tirelessly on each assigned task to ensure the safe evacuation of the workers. National and international experts were also present at the site to help with the rescue operation. Several machines, resources, and experts from across the country were tasked with ensuring the safe rescue of workers.
Six plans were executed including drilling from over three sites - horizontal and vertical. The machines did help in moving pipes for food and other necessary materials to the trapped workers, but the rescue pipe could not reach them till the end. A few plans were still in the making but rat-hole miners, experts in digging tunnels in coal mines, were able to do the impossible. The rat-hole miners, a team of seven from Jhansi, were able to dig over 10 metres (till the end) within 48 hours which the auger machine failed to dig when its rotor blades were entrapped in metallic rods running underside, relics of some past experiment.
Regardless of personal opinion of Prime Minister of Modi, one has to accept that this kind of rescue operation is unprecedented. Five people from the Prime Minister's Office were at the spot day and night for 15 days and lived there in the container.
The Chief Minister of Uttarakhand was present for three-four hours every day, General VK Singh, Nitin Gadkari and many other ministers visited the buzzing-with-activity site frequently to review the rescue work.
A special aircraft of the Indian Air Force was sent from Hyderabad and the auger machine was brought from Slovenia. The world's best known rescue expert was called by a special plane.. To order a special kind of plasma cutter, the team was first sent to Hyderabad; then, the plane was sent to America and a special kind of plasma cutter was brought from there. Four machines and robots and ground penetrating radar were brought from Switzerland by special aircraft.
A helipad and a working runway were also built at the accident site and a vertical oxygen generator plant was installed there. Think whether you have ever heard of such a rescue operation being conducted in such a quick manner before in history.