16 trapped as landslip fractures tunnel

- LAL PRASAD SHARMA, SILDUJURE (KASKI)
16 trapped as landslip fractures tunnel

Apr 25, 2014-

Efforts continued late into Friday evening to rescue 16 workers trapped inside a tunnel of the under-construction Upper Madikhola Hydropower Project in Sildujure, Kaski. Thirteen workers, including a Chinese national, are safe inside the tunnel while three others are out of contact, said police.

The workers were shut inside when the ceiling caved in breaking the tunnel ribs as huge boulders hit the tunnel some 15 metres from the entry at around 1:30pm.

According to project supervisor Ganga Dutta Sapkota, an excavator was buried in the incident. Excavator operator Sujan Gurung and two others are out of contact while 13 workers came into contact after one-and-a-half hours of the incident. The project has not made public the names of the workers who are still inside the tunnel.

The workers have been caught some 125 metres from the tunnel exit. Personnel from Nepal Army, Nepal Police and Armed Police Force as well as project employees and locals gathered at the site for rescue efforts. Air and water was supplied into the tunnel via pipes already installed there in an alternative arrangement as the special-purpose equipment failed to work.

Excavators, loaders and breakers were used to clear the debris and rescue the workers. The rescuers are cautious about the possibility of another landslide at the site. A technician was killed in a landslip there on September 5 last year.

Sapkota said the workers were communicating with the help of pipes used for supplying air and water.

The incident occurred soon after the workers returned to work after lunch break. “Small stones started falling first. Huge boulders that were part of the ensuing landslide damaged the tunnel later,” said Bel Bahadur Pun, a project employee who witnessed the incident.

The incident took place, according to Assistant Sub-inspector Ganesh KC deployed at the site, as the power project had initiated work to control landslide.

Locals are terrorised as the landslide is widening and advancing towards the village. They have appealed for immediate measures to avert another disaster.

The hydropower project, planned to generate 25 megawatt electricity, has a joint investment of the China International Water and Electric Corporation, a subsidiary of the China Three Gorges Corporation, and the Nepali private sector. The project is worth Rs 5.28 billion.

Construction work started after then Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai laid the foundation stone on December 28, 2012. Chinese contractor Sino Hydro has been construction the project with an aim to complete it within 2015.

The site is about 17 kilometres north of Pokhara.

 

Published: 26-04-2014 08:35

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