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Australian Prime Minister Hails Uttarakhand Rescue Operation

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese praised the Indian authorities and rescue team at work in Uttarakhand for bringing 41 workers to safety in the Silkyara-Balkot tunnel in the state. The workers were trapped in the tunnel on November 12, 2023. An extensive rescue operation has been launched since then. Australian professor Arnold Dix was the head of the mission and was overseeing the rescue operation from the start. The workers were rescued from the tunnel on November 29, 2023, unscathed. Mr. Albanese also hailed the achievement of Arnold Dix in successfully carrying out the mission and rescuing the workers after an ordeal of 14 days.

Who is Arnold Dix?

Arnold Dix is a tunneling expert who hails from Australia. He heads the Geneva-based International Tunnelling and Underground Space Association. The main role of the organization is to raise issues related to ethical, legal, environmental, and political risks with respect to underground construction. Along with this, Mr. Arnold is also a geologist, engineer, and lawyer. He holds a science and law degree from Australia’s Monash University. He has several rescue operations to his credit. He had volunteered for the Qatar Red Crescent in 2019 to develop swiftness in response to underground accidents. In 2020, he joined Lord Robert Mair Peter Vickery QC to form the Underground Works Chambers, which manages and resolves complex risks arising from underground works.

Explaining his rescue operation in Uttarkashi, Mr. Arnold elaborated: “My view was that we needed to go softly… I was confident nobody would be injured as long as we took our time and were careful. So we had to go’softly, softly’ and, in the end, we achieved our mission 100 mm at a time… digging by hand.” He further explained that “this was important because we didn’t want to disturb the mountain and cause another avalanche or disturbance.” He realized that the ‘rat hole’ technique would be a breakthrough in this case because of his observation of the mountain’s severe reaction to the use of giant machines.

Soon after the collapse, drilling machines were employed to clear the path for the workers. However, this could not go on for long as the drills threatened to cause a landslide in the area, raising the fear of a cave-in. Hence, the operations had to be halted temporarily. Considering the pros and cons based on the satellite images received from the Japanese and the Italians, Mr. Arnold and his team decided to alter the course of the operation and emerged successful in their mission.

Praise of Australian Dignitaries:

Many Australian dignitaries heaped praise on the Indian team and Mr. Arnold for their success. According to the Australian Prime Minister post on Twitter, “a wonderful achievement by Indian authorities. Proud that Australian Professor Arnold Dix played a role on the ground.” Even the Australian High Commissioner to India, Philip Green, said that “this is an immense achievement. Well done to the authorities for successfully evacuating all 41 workers trapped in the tunnel in Uttarakhand. Special commendation to Australia’s Professor Arnold Dix, who provided important technical support on the ground.”

The Silkyara tunnel is part of an 890-kilometer flagship Char Dham project that connects Hindu pilgrim sites through the Himalayas. A landslide caused a portion of the tunnel to collapse, trapping 41 workers in the tunnel for two weeks.