Technical snag hampers evacuation of trapped workers

Bilaspur (Himachal Pradesh), Sep 20 (IANS) Rescuers were on Sunday close to evacuating two workers struck in a collapsed tunnel for over 180 hours in Himachal Pradesh but a technical snag hampered the relief work, officials said.

A snag in the drilling machine hampered the evacuation throughout the day. The evacuation was likely to be completed on Monday, officials said.

“We are awaiting the completion of the shaft. Once it’s done, our men will reach the spot 42 metres beneath the ground to rescue the workers,” Jaideep Singh, commanding officer of the National Disaster Response Force, told IANS.

He said a 42-metre deep vertical shaft had been dug.

“Just one metre of digging is left. Once it’s over, we will be in a position to reach the tunnel roof,” he said.

“Now we are hoping to evacuate the two workers and to trace the third one either later in the evening (Sunday) or tomorrow (Monday),” a beaming Singh said.

An official involved in the digging operation said making a passage through the well-designed reinforced concrete structure, that too with a web of 32 mm rods, would be a Herculean task.

He said no drilling has been carried out since Saturday night as the machine has developed a major snag.

“We are on the job to rectify the fault in the machine. The ingress of groundwater in the dug up portion is also posing a challenge. We are using pumps to flush out water,” he added.

Bilaspur Deputy Commissioner Manasi Sahay Thakur said they were in regular touch with the two trapped workers — Mani Ram and Satish Tomar — through a microphone linked with a webcam.

However, the whereabouts of the third worker, Hirdya Ram, are not known.

Of the 1.2-km proposed tunnel of the Kiratpur-Manali expressway road project, 275 metres was excavated when disaster struck on September 12, an official source said.

The contract for tunnel laying, involving an outlay of Rs.82 crore, has been assigned to the Chandigarh-based Himalayan Construction Co, three of whose workers, belonging to the hill state, were trapped.

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