Arnold Dix, the Australia based professor is the president of the International Tunnelling and Underground Space Association, is among the experts being consulted by rescuers.
He was roped by the authorities to provide expert analysis and help the case in the best way he can. A total of five agencies – ONGC, SJVNL, RVNL, NHIDCL, and THDCL – have been assigned specific responsibilities to evacuate the 41 labourers trapped for 13 days in the two-km-built portion of the under-construction Silkyara tunnel in Uttarakhand’s Uttarkashi following a landslide.
Who is Professor Arnold Dix?
Professor Arnold Dix specialises in underground and transportation infrastructure – from construction risk to more technical issues associated with actual safety performance from an operational safety perspective.
He also provides advice on risks associated with underground construction and is widely recognised as the world’s leading expert on underground tunnelling.
Soon after reaching the spot, Arnold Dix conducted an inspection at the Silkyara tunnel site and spoke to the agencies which have been involved in the rescue operations. With multiple agencies and plans in place to evacuate the trapped workers, Dix appears confident of finding an optimum solution to rescue the workers.
On Thursday, Arnold Dix reiterated that all the 42 workers stuck inside the tunnel would be rescued by Christmas. Dix’s assurance came after boring through the rubble of the collapsed Silkyara tunnel was put on hold again on Thursday apparently after cracks appeared in the platform on which the drilling machine rests, in a fresh hurdle to the rescue the workers.
“We were hoping to see the workers this time yesterday, then we were hoping to see them this morning and then this afternoon. But, it looks like the mountain had different ideas. We have had to pause the auger (machine) operation at the moment and some repairs are being done to the machine. We are probably going to enter the next phase where we consider other options,” said Dix told news agency PTI.
In the wake of the tunnel collapse, Arnold Dix stressed the importance of meticulous planning and safety, stating that the current situation seems promising but requires careful evaluation to avoid further risks. His approach underlines the need for thorough analysis and consideration of all aspects of such critical operations.
Arnold Dix’s career is marked by numerous accolades, reflecting his significant contributions to tunnel safety worldwide. In 2011, he received the Alan Neyland Australasian Tunnelling Society bi-annual award for excellence in tunnelling, specifically in tunnel fire safety.
Arnold Dix, also a barrister, is a member of the British Institute of Investigators. He is active on all continents, a member of the specialist Underground Works Chambers, a member of the Victorian Bar and is a visiting professor of engineering (tunnels) at Tokyo City University.
His career over the three decades has seen a unique hybrid of engineering, geology, law and risk management matters. Dix’s key strength is in his ability to bridge the gap between the legal and technical dimensions of a problem, risk assessment or dispute.
In addition to his legal work as a barrister, Dix can be engaged as an investigator, expert witness, consultant and mediator.
Dix’s efforts in enhancing fire safety in tunnels have been recognised as groundbreaking. More recently, in 2022, he was honoured with a Committee Service Award by the National Fire Protection Association of the United States of America.
The latest on UttarKashi collapsed tunnel rescue operation
The Uttarkashi tunnel rescue operation to save 41 trapped workers faced the “biggest hurdle” so far after the American-auger drilling machine hit a metal girder on Friday evening. The drilling stopped as a result, and the operation has since been put on hold. Now, officials are considering the option of vertical drilling, and a decision on the same is expected to be made soon.
The government agencies involved in the rescue operation have begun preparing for vertical drilling. The machine to be used for the drilling has been fully installed, and is ready to be mounted.
The Border Roads Organisation (BRO) has already prepared the road to reach the vertical drilling site, and goods will soon be transported to strengthen the platform.
Visuals gathered by India Today showed labourers, including women, going to the top of the hill to start digging for the vertical drilling. One of them said that around 20 labourers have been tasked with the job.
The setback on Friday evening happened soon after the drilling resumed after several hours of technical snag. The auger machine was withdrawn due to hitting the metal girder and the rescue work has since been on hold.
Officials now believe that the usage of the American-auger machine for the rescue operation is “very difficult”.
Uttarakhand Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami, who conducted an inspection of the Silkyara tunnel site on Friday, said that the rescue operation is in its “final stage” and assured that both central and state government agencies are working together to get the 41 trapped men out.
Meanwhile, NDMA official Lt General Syed Ata Hasnain (Retd) advised the media not to make assumptions regarding the timeline for the completion of the rescue operation, adding that it creates a “wrong perception”, news agency PTI reported.