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The South Asian Insider

'Like we're knocking on front door': Uttarkashi op to save 41 men in final stage



 (News Agency)The rescue operation at the Uttarkashi tunnel has reached its final stage, with efforts underway to reach the 41 trapped workers shortly. Ambulances are currently waiting outside the tunnel and a team of seven experts from Delhi has reached the site to help speed up the operation.
The first 6-metre pipe has already been injected, while welding work is underway for the drilling of the next pipe of the same length, NDRF DG, Atul Karwal said.He further said that the American-augur drilling machine, which was set aside to be allowed to cool down, has begun working again.
Earlier in the day, Bhaskar Khulbe, former Advisor to the Prime Minister's Office told India Today the steel structures that posed a hurdle in the rescue work on Wednesday night have now been cleared. "Experts from Roorkee have been called to monitor the vibrations in the (augur) machine," he told India Today.
The obstacle was discovered on Wednesday after 6 pm when an escape pipe of up to 44 metres was inserted into the debris via horizontal drilling. Rescue officer Harpal Singh told news agency ANI that the drilling machine failed to cut the structures, adding that NDRF personnel will cut those, after which the machine will be used again.International tunnelling expert Arnold Dix, who reached the tunnel site this morning, said that the final stage is like being at the "front door and ... knocking on it". "We know that the guys are there on the other side. I am going to have a look and see what is happening...," he told ANI.
An attempt to cut the iron structures with gas cutters was made on Wednesday night as the drilling machine was given time to cool down.
Earlier, officials said the American-made auger machine had to drill through a 57-metre stretch of debris to reach the 41 trapped workers, who have been stuck inside the tunnel since November 12.The rescue team could now reach the trapped workers and get them out shortly.
Here are the key developments in the final stage of the Uttarkashi tunnel rescue
A hospital of 41 beds has been set up at the Community Health Centre in Chinyalisaur, Uttarakhand, for the medical examination and treatment of the trapped workers after they are rescued from the Uttarkashi tunnel. The workers have been stuck inside the tunnel for more than 200 hours. Two more pipes of six metres each are to be laid through the rubble to complete the escape passage, project head of Jozila Tunnel, who is lending a helping hand in the rescue operations in Silkyara, told PTI on Wednesday.
A machine was brought to the rescue operation site outside the Uttarkashi tunnel by helicopter to fix the auger drilling machine. The NDRF personnel are now installing bearings and wheels on stretchers so that the trapped workers can be pulled out on those, and not crawl out through the long pipes.
On Wednesday, NDRF personnel entered the tunnel, a statement by the Uttarakhand Chief Minister's Office said. Besides ambulances, a team of doctors has been put on stand-by for health check-ups of the trapped workers. The NDRF personnel carried oxygen cylinders with them at the Uttarkashi tunnel site to assist in the ongoing rescue operation. Uttarkashi District Magistrate Abhishek Ruhela arrived at the site this morning as the final stage of the mission continues. On Wednesday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke to Uttarakhand Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami to take stock of the ongoing rescue work. The Prime Minister enquired about essential items, including food and medicines provided to the trapped workers via a new and wider piper laid for the purpose. This pipeline was used on Tuesday (November 21) to send an endoscopic flexi camera beyond the debris, which gave the first visuals of the 41 trapped workers. Uttarakhand Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami and Union Minister General VK Singh (Retd) have reached the tunnel site. Dhami said that he spoke with PM Modi this morning, who sought an update on the rescue operation.