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Sunday, July 21, 2024

NHIDCL to Resume Silkyara Tunnel Construction After Worker Rescue

After a harrowing 17-day ordeal, the 41 construction workers trapped in the Silkyara-Barkot tunnel have been discharged from the hospital, marking a significant step toward the resumption of construction. The National Highways & Infrastructure Development Corporation Ltd. (NHIDCL) is gearing up to restart work on the tunnel, handled by M/s Navayuga Engineering Company Ltd., once the daunting task of clearing the 60 meters of debris is completed.

NHIDCL’s director of administration and finance, Anshu Manish Khalkho, assured that the project had no reason to be halted or put on hold. He explained that a temporary break was taken to clear the machinery deployed for rescue operations, allowing both the workers and the construction team to regroup before progressing with the project. Khalkho estimated that the debris clearance process might extend over three to four months.

In response to concerns raised about the safety of the project, particularly given the 21 previous collapse incidents since its initiation, Khalkho affirmed that a geological survey and safety audit would be conducted simultaneously with the construction work. Despite the past collapses, he maintained that no injuries had occurred in these incidents, emphasizing that such situations are not uncommon at tunnel construction sites.

The Silkyara-Barkot tunnel project, approved by the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs in February 2018, aims to construct a 4.5 km-long two-lane bi-directional tunnel between Silkyara Bend and Barkot, complete with escape passages and approaches on the Dharasu-Yamunotri section.

Khalkho also addressed the recent claims regarding the involvement of rat-hole miners in the rescue operation. Disputing the reported digging speed of 18 meters in 26 hours, he clarified that their role primarily involved clearing muck obstructing the rescue pipe, not extensive excavation.

Meanwhile, the 41 workers, who spent over 400 hours trapped in the tunnel, were discharged from AIIMS Rishikesh on Thursday evening. Medical professionals certified their good health, and pictures from inside the tunnel showcased their resilience as they engaged in games, exercises, and singing to boost morale. The trapped workers’ survival was supported by life line pipes providing cooked food and communication with the outside world.

Representatives from Navayuga Engineering Company expressed gratitude and provided financial support, presenting a cheque of ₹2 lakh along with paid leaves to the workers. Buses from their respective states were stationed outside the hospital, ready to transport the workers back home as they thanked the dedicated medical and rescue teams for their support throughout the challenging ordeal.

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