Seven days on and counting: The plight of 41 workers trapped in a Uttarakhand tunnel and the battle to rescue them!

The battle to rescue 41 workers who are being trapped in a Uttarakhand tunnel is taking a new turn as the efforts have reached a week amidst a fact that there is no plausible development in ending their plight. As no major breakthrough has been made to rescue them, their families are embracing deep agony as each day passes. 

It was an under-construction road tunnel that was being built between Silkyara and Dandalgaon on the Brahmakhal - Yamunotri national highway in Uttarkashi. The workers were trapped after a portion of the tunnel collapsed on November 12. Since then, various rescue efforts have been carried out only to count days. While the mission isn't called off, the efforts are also being made to send food to the trapped workers. 

Amidst a tight watch of both the state and central governments, the authorities on the ground have asserted that all the trapped workers are safe and while they have access to light and supplies of oxygen, dry food, water, and medicines are being sent through a pipe. Reuters had reported that the authorities expect that a second, six-inch pipeline being drilled into the debris for delivery of cooked food. 

Bhaskar Khulbe, the officer on special duty for the tunnel project, said that the second pipeline will soon be ready to send cooked food to the workers and of an estimated 60 metres, 42 metres of pipeline have already been completed. While speaking to the reporters on Sunday, Union Highways and Road Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari said, "Our priority is to save 41 lives who are trapped inside the tunnel. Through this (second pipeline), we will be able to send necessary things to them." 

Gadkari further said that the officials are also considering setting up an optical fibre connection through this pipeline, which can be used to insert a camera or phone connection into the tunnel to help workers speak to their families. As per the statement from the district medical officer Panwar, all 41 trapped workers are being given nuts, puffed rice, chickpeas, and other dry food items through a pipe. Of these 41, three workers have complained of dysentery. 

Reuters further reported that the rescuers are exploring five new plans to rescue the trapped workers and the new plans include drilling vertically from the top of the mountain, which rescuers hope can start by Tuesday as they await arrival of machinery. Though the region is vulnerable to landslides, earthquakes, and floods, the authorities are yet to officialy reveal what caused the tunnel to collapse. 

A high-performance machine, that was airlifted from Indore, Madhya Pradesh, had reached Silkyara last Saturday and a central team has also arrived at the site to take stock of the progress being made to rescue the trapped workers. On Monday - November 20, Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke to Uttarakhand Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami and took inputs on the ongoing rescue efforts to rescue the workers. 

Tweeting about the phone call with the Prime Minister, Dhami said, "Prime Minister Narendra Modi ji took information through telephone about the relief and rescue operations conducted to safely rescue the workers trapped in the tunnel under construction near Silkyara." He further said that necessary equipment and resources are being provided by the Union government. 

"Central and state agencies are engaged in relief and rescue operations with mutual coordination and promptness. The workers trapped in the tunnel are safe and they are being provided oxygen, nutritious food and water. Experts' opinion is also being sought for relief and rescue operations. Every effort is being made to rescue all the workers trapped inside the tunnel quickly and safely", Dhami added.