Uttarkashi tunnel rescue: Last pipe being pushed in; ambulances, special ward ready

A helicopter was also expected to be earmarked for the operation

Rescue mission is under way at Silkyara where 41 labourers have been trapped inside of an under-construction tunnel Rescue mission is under way at Silkyara where 41 labourers have been trapped inside of an under-construction tunnel | Josekutty Panackal

With the rescue operations at Silkyara tunnel entering its final stretch, authorities said ambulances were on standby and a special ward at a local health centre was kept ready to treat the 41 workers trapped for over 10 days. The last pipe to prepare an escape passage for the workers was being pushed in through the rubble on Thursday morning.

Officials said they have cut the steel pieces stuck in the debris using gas cutters so that the 800mm diameter pipes can be drilled in to access the trapped men. Though officials said the rescue operations will be complete by 8am on Thursday, one more pipe was remaining to be inserted through the debris as of 10 am.

"We have inserted pipes 44 metres via horizontal drilling. However, we have found some steel rods in the debris. The machine couldn't cut those rods. Therefore, NDRF personnel will cut those rods following which we will use the machine again," rescue officer Harpal Singh told ANI.

The 15 doctors on standby at the site ahead of evacuation include chest specialists. A fleet of 40 ambulances is expected to be deployed to shift the workers to hospital. The community health centre in Chinyalisaur has opened a special ward to treat the evacuated workers. Other hospitals in the district and AIIMS, Rishikesh are also on alert, officials told PTI.

Relatives of some of the workers spoken to the trapped men through a six-inch pipeline inserted through the rubble on Monday were optimistic about the rescue operations. "Today, we were taken inside the tunnel and we spoke to our family member. Sonu repeatedly told me not to worry now and that we would meet soon," Devashish, whose brother-in-law is among the 41 workers, told PTI.

"We called him on Diwali but could not reach him. His colleagues told us that his mobile phone was damaged. Later, we saw his name in the newspaper and learnt that he was trapped inside the tunnel," he added.

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