In a devastating incident early on Sunday, a segment of the under-construction tunnel between Silkyara and Dandalgaon on the Brahmakhal-Yamunotri National Highway collapsed, trapping approximately 40 workers, as reported by local officials.
The National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), State Disaster Response Force (SDRF), and local police swiftly initiated a search and rescue operation upon learning of the accident, according to Superintendent of Police (Uttarkashi) Arpan Yaduvanshi.
Initially citing 36 trapped laborers, officials from the National Highways & Infrastructure Development Corporation Limited (NHIDCL), responsible for the tunnel’s construction, later confirmed that the District Emergency Operation Centre had identified a total of 40 workers from Bihar, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Odisha, Uttarakhand, and Himachal Pradesh.
To ensure the well-being of those trapped, oxygen is being pumped into the collapsed section through a water pipe as part of the Char Dham all-weather road project, informed Mr. Yaduvanshi. Despite ongoing rescue efforts for the past 12 hours, there has been no breakthrough so far. However, signals from within the tunnel suggest the trapped workers are safe.
Rajesh Panwar, the project manager from Navyuga Construction Company, expressed optimism about reaching the workers soon, mentioning ongoing efforts to remove debris and the use of drilling equipment.
Approximately 160 rescuers, equipped with drilling machines and excavators, are tirelessly working to reach the trapped laborers. Additional resources, including a vertical drilling machine, are en route to enhance the rescue mission.
Teams from the Border Roads Organisation and Indo-Tibetan Border Police, led by Commanding Officer Naman Narula and Assistant Commandant Jadhav Vaibhav, have joined the rescue efforts. Uttarkashi District Magistrate Abhishek Ruhela, National Highways Authority of India Chief General Manager Vishal Gupta, and NDRF Second-in-Command Ravishankar Badhani are supervising the operation.
Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami, actively monitoring the situation, urged officials to expedite the rescue efforts. Mr. Dhami has canceled Diwali holidays for relevant departments and expressed hope for the safe rescue of everyone involved.
While the incident’s cause is yet to be determined, officials emphasized that the immediate focus is on saving lives, with inquiries into responsibility and circumstances to follow. The proposed tunnel, part of the Char Dham road project, aims to reduce the journey from Uttarkashi to Yamunotri by 26 kilometers.