40 workers trapped in Uttarkashi tunnel are safe; CM Dhami reached the spot

In the early hours of Monday, contact was established with 40 workers trapped in the collapsed part of the tunnel under construction on Yamunotri National Highway in Uttarkashi, Uttarakhand. “We have been able to contact 40 people trapped inside the tunnel. They have informed us that they are all safe,” said a rescue official.

Uttarakhand Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami also reached the incident site to take stock of the situation.

“The situation is better now. Workers are safe. We are providing food and water. There are about 40 people inside. We are trying our best,” said Anshu Manish Khalko, director of NHIDCL (National Highways and Infrastructure Development Corporation Limited).

Relief and rescue operations are going on war footing to save the people trapped inside. A rescue official said they needed to drill 30-40 meters to save them.

“We are moving forward slowly. We have drilled 10 to 15 meters so far, but we still need to drill 30 to 40 meters (to rescue people trapped inside),” he said.

Of the 40 people trapped inside the tunnel, 15 are from Jharkhand, 8 from Uttar Pradesh, 3 from West Bengal, 5 from Odisha, 2 each from Uttarakhand and Himachal and 4 from Bihar. A portion of the tunnel from Silkyara to Dandalgaon collapsed on Sunday.

“The work is going on very fast. Everyone is working very hard… We felt sad yesterday because we could not contact the stranded people. But then we were able to communicate with them,” said Ranveer Singh Chauhan, a Prantiya Raksha Dal (PRD) soldier.

Oxygen is being supplied to the broken part of the tunnel under construction through water pipes so that the trapped workers do not face difficulty in breathing. SDRF Inspector Jagdamba Bijlwan, who is leading the operation, earlier told The Indian Express that the situation was not life-threatening.

Uttarkashi Superintendent of Police Arpan Yaduvanshi said on Saturday, “In the Silkyara tunnel, a portion of the tunnel has collapsed about 200 meters before the starting point. According to HIDCL officials looking after the construction work of the tunnel, about 36 people are trapped in the tunnel and efforts are being made to rescue them safely. Police force, NDRF and SDRF teams are present at the spot. There is no news of any casualty yet. We will soon save everyone safely.”

He said personnel of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), State Disaster Response Force (SDRF) and police started search and rescue operations immediately after receiving information about the accident.