‘I saw debris lying 200 metres inside tunnel’

An Uttarakhand policeman, the first to reach the site of the collapsed Sikyara tunnel, said he had inspected the under-construction tunnel last month and the work was going well.

Posted at Genwala Police Post under Dharasu Police Station in Uttarkashi district, Head Constable Suresh Kumar told PTI that a site engineer called on his mobile phone to inform him about the collapse and he was the first responder from the police department.

“It was around 8 am and I was taking a bath when I got the call. I immediately took a junior staffer with me and reached the spot on my motorbike,” said Kumar, a native of Pauri Garhwal, who has been deployed at the Genwala Police Post, about 10 km from Silkyara tunnel, for the last one-and-a-half years.

Kumar said he had inspected the tunnel last month.

“The tunnel was dug up two km and the work was going on smoothly. I could have never imagined such an incident. There was a dividing wall to support the frame as well,” he said.

Kumar said the incident took place around 5.30 am though the police and administration were informed a bit late.

After reaching the spot, I saw debris lying 200 metres inside the tunnel, blocking the entry passage. I informed my seniors at the police station and subsequently, a rescue team arrived.

Drilling with the American auger machine resumed at the Silkyara tunnel overnight to prepare an escape passage for the 41 workers trapped inside for more than 10 days, officials said on Wednesday.

According to officials, 800 diameter steel pipes have been inserted up to 32 metres through the rubble so far.

Labourers trapped inside were given vegetarian pulao, matar-paneer, and chapatis slapped with butter for dinner on Tuesday night through a food pipe stuck through the collapsed part of the structure.

The dinner, prepared under the doctor’s supervision with less oil and spices to make it easily digestible, was supplied to the workers in 150 packets.

The 6-inch wide pipeline helped the rescuers capture trapped workers’ first pictures in days. The pictures, which were taken with an endoscopic flexi camera, showed workers were doing fine, authorities said.

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