Major Facts About Uttarkashi Tunnel Rescue for SSB Interview

Major Facts About Uttarkashi Tunnel Rescue for SSB Interview
30-November 2023...........

An unfortunate incident occurred on 12th November 2023 in the Uttarkashi district of Uttarakhand. At around 5.30 AM, a portion of the under-construction Silkyara-Barkot tunnel, located on the Yamunotri end of National Highway 134, collapsed, closing the exit pathway. Consequently, 41 workers who were working inside the tunnel got trapped. After a long rescue operation lasting 17 days, the workers were finally evacuated safely in the late evening of 28th November 2023. In this article on the Uttarkashi tunnel rescue operation, we will cover all the major facts and information you should know about.


You will get to know how this arduous operation was carried out, which teams and organizations were involved in this rescue mission, what plans were opted for, and, in the end, how rat miners helped in the evaluation process. This article will also help you prepare for competitive exams like the NDA, CDS, AFCAT, and other competitive exams, as well as for the SSB interview, as a number of questions are likely to be asked on this rescue operation in such exams. Read on to learn more about the major facts about the Uttarkashi tunnel rescue mission and how it was finally achieved successfully.


Here is what you will learn from this article.


  • Understand the scope and magnitude of the collapse that trapped 41 workers inside the under-construction Silkyara-Barkot tunnel in Uttarkashi, Uttarakhand.


  • Gain insights into the different strategies and plans adopted by rescue teams, including Operation Zindagi, to extricate the trapped workers.


  • Explore the challenges faced and the various techniques employed during the rescue operation.


  • Learn about the duration of the entire rescue mission, spanning 17 days, leading up to the successful evacuation on 28th November 2023.


  • Discover the number of workers trapped, their states of origin, and the company responsible for constructing the tunnel.


  • Understand the significance of National Highway 134 and how the tunnel in question connects different sides, impacting transportation and connectivity in the region.


  • Learn about the Char Dham Project, of which this tunnel was a part and its implications for the region's development and connectivity.


  • Explore the involvement of various organizations such as NDRF, SDRF, Indian Air Force's Chinook, Indian Army personnel, and the PMO in the rescue mission.


  • Discover unique methodologies like rat mining and the use of auger machines in the evaluation process during the rescue operation.


  • Get acquainted with key figures involved in the operation, such as Arnold Dix, and explore similar operations conducted previously that serve as reference points.


Understand the Silkyara Bend - Barkot Tunnel Project


The Silkyara Bend-Barkot Tunnel project was approved in February 2018 by the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs of the Government of India for the Chardham Mahamarg Pariyojana in Uttarakhand. As part of the Char Dham all-weather road project, a company named Navayuga Engineering Construction Limited was involved in the construction of the Silkyara Bend–Barkot tunnel. Here are some key points related to this project.


  • Location: Dharasu - Yamunotri section along NH-134 in Uttarakhand.

  • Length: 4.531 km long 2-lane Bi-Directional tunnel.

  • Funding: Under the NH (O) Scheme of the Ministry of Road Transport & Highways (MoRTH).

  • Total Project Cost: Estimated at Rs. 1383.78 crore.

  • Construction Period: 4 years.


Connectivity and Benefits of the Silkyara Tunnel Project


  • This project aims at enhancing connectivity and accessibility to religious sites, boosting local development, and easing travel for pilgrims and tourists.


  • It further aims to provide all-weather connectivity to Yamunotri, one of the important dhams on Chardham Yatra.


  • It is part of the ambitious Chardham Plan, aimed at improving connectivity to the four pilgrimage sites in Uttarakhand - Yamunotri, Gangotri, Kedarnath, and Badrinath.


  • It will also help in reducing travel distance from Dharasu to Yamunotri by about 20 km, saving travel time by approximately an hour.


Know about the Implementing and Executing Authority


  • The Ministry of Road Transport & Highways (MoRTH) of the Government of India currently oversees the implementation of the Silkyara Bend - Barkot Tunnel Project.


  • Besides, the National Highways & Infrastructure Development Corporation Ltd. (NHIDCL) looks after the execution of the project.


  • NHIDCL is a wholly state-owned company of the Government of India, which was formed in 2014 for highway development in border states.


Know More About the National Highway 134 and its Role


The National Highway 134 starts from its junction with NH-34 near Dharasu, Kuthnaur, and terminates at Yamunotri in the state of Uttarakhand. It is an auxiliary route of NH 34, and its length is around 95 km.


Understand the Uttarkashi Tunnel Rescue Mission in 4 Points


  • “Operation Zindagi” was launched by the state government to rescue the workers trapped inside the Silkyara tunnel.


  • In rescue efforts, tunnel boring machines were deployed but encountered difficulties including cracking sounds, debris consistency issues, machine breakdowns, and delaying progress.


  • Various methods, like drilling for oxygen supply, food passage, the use of auger machines, and finally the rat-hole mining process due to machine failures, were employed to reach the trapped workers.


  • After several setbacks and efforts by the rescue team, the trapped workers were successfully evacuated on 28th November, with all 41 workers brought out safely.


A number of government agencies assisted in this rescue mission, including the NDRF, SDRF, Uttarakhand Police, Indian Army, Indian Air Force, BRO, and more, among others. Let us understand each of these organizations in detail and see what role they play.


Understand the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF)


  • The National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) was formed on 19th January 2006 to provide assistance during a disaster.


  • The National Disaster Response Force was established under the Disaster Management Act, of 2005.


  • The National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) is the apex regulatory body for disaster management in India.


  • The Prime Minister of India acts as the Chairman of the National Disaster Management Authority.


Know More About the State Disaster Response Force (SDRF)


As the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) works at the national level, similarly, the State Disaster Response Force (SDRF) operates at the state level to provide immediate assistance during a disaster. The SDRFs are also formed as per the provisions of the Disaster Management Act of 2005. The Uttarakhand State Disaster Response Force played a crucial role in the Uttarkashi tunnel rescue operation.


Role of the Engineers from the Indian Army Corps of Engineers


A team from the Indian Army Corps of Engineers was also deployed to provide assistance in the Uttarkashi tunnel rescue operation. The combat support arm for providing combat engineering support, the Indian Army Corps of Engineers, develops infrastructure for defence organizations. Besides providing assistance to the civil authorities during natural disasters, this unit of the Indian Army also maintains connectivity along the borders.


Understand the Role of the Border Roads Organisation (BRO)


The Border Roads Organization (BRO) was established on 7th May 1960. Under the ownership of the Ministry of Defence of the Government of India, the BRO is a statutory body that not only develops but also maintains road networks in the border areas of India. The major objective of the Border Roads Organization (BRO) is to provide infrastructure to the Indian Armed Forces as well as friendly nations sharing borders with India.


Know More About the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) of India


The Prime Minister’s Office, popularly known as the PMO, is the main office of the Prime Minister of India, through which the Prime Minister oversees major events. It consists of multiple levels of support staff who report to the Prime Minister. From an administrative point of view, the PMO is headed by the Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister of India.


Role of the Chinook transport helicopter of the Indian Air Force


To expedite the evacuation process in the Uttarkashi tunnel rescue operation and airlift the trapped workers, the Indian Air Force deployed the Chinook transport helicopter. Consequently, after the primary check-up at the local hospital in Chinyalisaur near the tunnel, the Chinook helicopter carried all 41 workers from Chinyalisaur to AIIMS Rishikesh for further medical examination. The cargo and troop transport, Chinook, plays a vital role during humanitarian and disaster relief activities, search and rescue, and casualty evacuation.


What is rat hole mining, and what role did it play in the rescue?


In the Uttarkashi tunnel rescue operation, the rat-hole miners played a crucial role in the safe evacuation of the trapped workers. To better understand rat hole mining, it is the process of narrow tunnel excavation by way of manual digging. Initially, the auger machine was deployed at work to drill through the debris and make way for workers to come out, but it failed, and then the rat hole miners gave the final touch to the process.


Who is Arnold Dix and What Role Did he Play in the Operation?


Hailing from Australia, Arnold Dix is an underground tunneling expert. Reports suggest that he is also the head of the Geneva-based International Tunneling and Underground Space Association. He has been in the news due to his active involvement in the Uttarkashi tunnel rescue operation. He led the rescue mission and also provided strategic assistance throughout the operation. His profile shows him as a barrister, scientist, and professor of engineering.


Learn more about similar operations around the world


We hope now you have a clear image of the Uttarkashi tunnel rescue operation and how various organizations helped in the success of the mission. If you are curious and want to learn more about other similar rescue operations around the world, you can also refer to the 2010 Copiapó mining accident, another unfortunate yet successful rescue mission where all trapped workers were evacuated after 69 days.


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