Colonel Dipak Patil, who had been the general manager of the National Highways Infrastructure Development Corporation Limited (NHIDCL) and a member of the Indian Army’s Corps of Engineers, emerged as the game changer during 17 days daring rescue operation in Silkyara tunnel.
In an interview with Prasanna D Zore, Colonel Patil delved into the nuances of the pulse-pounding rescue operation and shed light on the various challenges that the team faced during their strenuous efforts.
Additionally, in his detailed account of his interview with Prasanna D Zore, Colonel Patil explained how strongly determined his team was to retrieve some of their friends from the debris.
Thirdly, Colonel Patil also defended himself from criticisms regarding safety measures taken during construction of the tunnel; he gave a complete response which answered all concerns and discussed building process itself.
Colonel Patil recalled how his involvement with the matter started when army headquarters called him at around 5:30 am on November 13th for help in the rescue operation in Silkyara tunnel for the people trapped there.
He wanted to render help to people whom he had worked with before and felt obligated to go on this mission.
A helicopter delivered Colonel Patil into the area where he immediately joined other firefighters working on rescuing stranded individuals.
He said that among other things, there was an urgent need for sealing rock creeps after he arrived at the site.
Although there were not enough tools such as Auger rig, another one was airlifted through Indian Air Force aircraft.
The Auger got stuck due to steel reinforcements entangled at 47.7 meters inside the tunnel, hence there was a need for manual labor to remove debris and move along a narrow space so as get to survivors.
Several organizations collaborated to achieve this feat; they included NHIDCL, NDRF, SDRF, Indian army Navayuga Enterprises and many government organs.
Various methods were used simultaneously including parallel horizontal tunnels and drilling from hill top for the rescue operation in Silkyara tunnel to help all the 41 workers trapped.
For sixteen or seventeen days that followed, it was never easy for those involved in their attempt of freeing them but they never lost hope.
Colonel Patil spoke of the persistence in dealing with obstacles all the time while still maintaining his focus on bringing out the workers.
Remarkably, innovative ways were used to communicate with these trapped individuals. In the beginning, khichdi, rotis, fruits and dry fruits were sent inside the tunnel through a 100 mm diameter pipe which was later replaced with a 150 mm one.
The cricket bat and ball in smaller size that Colonel Patil sent to them let them play cricket so that they would keep their spirits up during this frustrating confinement.
The effort to prevent mental trauma included frequent communication, making improvised devices for contacting families and showing the scope of rescue efforts being made.
Despite poor cell phone signal strength within the tunnel, some modifications allowed workers to communicate with their loved ones, demonstrating human ingenuity under duress.
According to Colonel Patil’s acknowledgement, Auger getting stuck was the most critical point of this rescue operation in Silkyara tunnel, as it had to be cut into smaller pieces in order to continue its journey.
He praised steadfastness of welders who also reiterated their commitment towards their task under difficult conditions because they wanted to save other employees apart from government support.
Colonel Dipak Patil concluded by emphasizing resilience, perseverance and innovation exemplified during the rescue operation in Silkyara tunnel.
This showed that even when challenges appear impossible to overcome due to the unwavering determination, mutual efforts and originality employed in adversity; there is still a chance for humanity not to fall apart.