Rescue workers on Tuesday morning successfully utilized an endoscopy camera to capture the first visuals of the 41 workers trapped inside the collapsed Silkyara tunnel in Uttarkashi, Uttarakhand. The rescue operation saw an endoscopy camera sent into the tunnel via a six-inch pipe that was pushed through the rubble on Monday night.
The video footage revealed the trapped workers, adorned in yellow and white helmets, receiving food items sent to them through the pipeline and engaging in communication with each other, as reported by PTI.
The camera, dispatched from Delhi on Monday evening, marked a crucial development in the ongoing rescue efforts.
The rescue workers, in addition to the visual contact, attempted communication with the trapped workers through a walkie-talkie. An official was heard urging the workers to step in front of the camera, stating, “Aap camera ke paas walkie talkie pe aake baat karein” (Come in front of the camera and talk to us through the Walkie Talkie).
According to reports, the trapped individuals conveyed to the rescue workers that they were in good health. They were served hot Khichdi for the first time since being stranded, and provisions such as food, mobile phones, and chargers were set to be sent into the tunnel through the six-inch lifeline.
While communication had been established prior to the endoscopy camera deployment, the six-inch pipe represented a significant upgrade as it allowed for the sending of mobile phones, likely providing a positive psychological impact on the trapped workers.
Amidst the ongoing efforts, uncertainties remain regarding the resumption of horizontal boring, which was halted after a boulder obstructed the progress of the heavy-duty auger machine. An official statement indicated that this operation was scheduled to resume on Monday evening.
Vertical drilling continued on Monday, with heavy machinery aiming to dig a vertical rescue shaft approximately 80 meters deep. The Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) is coordinating additional equipment, and the Indian Air Force has deployed aircraft to airlift 36 tonnes of critical equipment. The drilling has commenced from the Barkot-end of the tunnel.
International tunnelling expert Arnold Dix is on-site to assess the rescue efforts, leading the Geneva-based International Tunnelling and Underground Space Association.
The Uttarakhand state government is expected to submit a report to the High Court in response to its directive. The court had sought replies from the state government and central agencies within 48 hours, addressing the ongoing operation and measures taken in the rescue of the workers. This directive stemmed from a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by the Dehradun-based NGO Samadhan, specifically related to the Silkyara tunnel rescue operation.