Shimla (PTI): Nine days after they got trapped in a partially collapsed under-construction tunnel near Bilaspur in Himachal Pradesh, two workers were today rescued and brought out even as search operations continued for the third worker who is still suspected stuck under the debris.
The rescued workers have been identified as Mani Ram and Satish Tomar, NDRF Director General O P Singh, who is monitoring the rescue operation from New Delhi, told PTI.
However, there has been no communication with the third employee, Hriday Ram.
“We have rescued two of the three workers who were trapped in the tunnel for over a week. Beginning this morning our teams have also begun a horizontal drilling operation to see through the debris and find the third worker whom we suspect is trapped somewhere there,” Singh said.
The DG added that while he was still in contact with the NDRF rescue teams, initial inputs suggested that the rescued personnel were weak but talking.
The miraculous and fine rescue operation by the men of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) came a day after incessant rains lashed the accident spot and a snag developed in the heavy drilling rig that was drilling through to rescue the trapped.
DG Singh said the biggest challenge for his rescue team was to effectively tackle loose rocks and seepage that were occurring in the narrow approach to the main part of the tunnel.
“It was a very risky and long operation as our rescuers were totally exposed to loose rocks. We later used casing pipes to thwart this problem but it could only be done for a small length. The boys did a great job under challenging circumstances,” he said.
The NDRF commander on the spot said the two men who were rescued were in “good health” while operations are on to find the third worker.
“It was a tough operation as when we went down the tunnel in the first attempt it was not adequate. We are now looking for the third person and our operation is going on,” he said.
Bilaspur Deputy Commissioner Manasi Sahay, also present on the spot, said the operation was not yet over as the teams were looking for the third person.
“Why should I loose hope. We are trying our best to locate and rescue the third worker,” she told reporters.
The employees were trapped inside tunnel No 4 of Kiratpur-Nerchowk four-lane project near Bilaspur in Himachal Pradesh when a portion of it collapsed on September 12.
Visuals emerging from the spot showed the rescuers flashing the victory sign and screaming in jubilation after the two were brought out from the narrow and dark tunnel.
The drilling of 1.2 mt diameter tunnel to reach the trapped persons was almost complete and less than 1 mt of drilling was left when the heavy drilling rig developed a snag last night, warranting replacement of a part of the drill and the operations were suspended.
The rescuers, earlier, had also established communication with two of the three trapped labourers through digital cameras and microphones after hours of digging.
A 45-member NDRF team, with three specially chosen men in the lead, have been working in the operation for days now.
Food and water had been supplied to the trapped workers through a 47 mts and 4-inch diameter bore.