UTTARKASHI: In a major mishap on Diwali morning, a portion of an under-construction tunnel of the Centre’s ambitious Char Dham all-weather highway project collapsed in the stretch between Silkayara and Polgaon villages of Yamunotri in Uttarkashi district of Uttarakhand.
The incident happened early on Sunday when work was going on in the tunnel. At least 40 labourers are feared trapped inside due to the collapse.Till the time of filing this report late on Sunday evening, rescue teams-comprising of over 150 personnel from National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), State Disaster Response Force (SDRF), Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) and Border Roads Organisation (BRO-which had been working for the past 12 hours, were still involved in reaching out to the trapped men.
Devendra Patwal, district disaster management officer, Uttarkashi, told TOI, “There are no reports of any casualties. Rescue teams are constantly providing oxygen and food supply to the trapped labourers through water pipes. We hope to get them evicted at the earliest.”
Speaking to mediapersons, Uttarkashi district magistrate, Abhishek Ruhela, said, “The rescue operation is happening on a war footing. Drilling machines have been deployed so that a safe escape passage can be created and the trapped people can be brought out soon.”
Uttarakhand Tunnel Tragedy: More than 30 feared trapped as under-construction tunnel collapses in Uttarkashi
The 4.5 km-long double-lane tunnel is pegged as one of the longest tunnels under the Char Dham all-weather project, which aims to widen the roads connecting the four Himalayan shrines of Gangotri, Yamunotri, Badrinath and Kedarnath. The tunnel, when completed, will shave off around 26km from the distance between Uttarkashi and Yamunotri.
According to officials, the tunnel is being constructed from both the Silkyara and Polgaon village sides simultaneously. The collapse happened near the Silkyara side. “An around 30-metre portion of the tunnel, located about 270 meters from the entrance of the Silkayara side collapsed,” Patwal said. When queried if there is enough space inside the tunnel for the trapped men to stay safe, he said, “Excavation of almost 4km of the tunnel has already been done and it is now in its final stages. There is a large safe space of around 500 meters between the landslide area and dead-end of the tunnel.”