An explosion in the exploratory drift tunnel of the Nyera Amari at Martsala in Samdrupcholing, Samdrupjongkhar, was suspected to have caused by a fire and not by an explosive explosion as reported earlier.

A press release from the Druk Green Power Corporation Ltd. (DGPC) sent yesterday evening stated that severe burns on the bodies of the four people who died and the injured, who is recovering in Guwahati, indicates that the fire must have caused the accident.

“The fire could be due to the presence of an inflammable gas in the tunnel, as there are coal deposits in the area,” it stated. “This is being further investigated.”

The press release stated that five men were removing muck from the face of the drift tunnel, which is about 595ms inside the hill around 11am of June 15 when the explosion took place. Three other men were just inside the portal of the tunnel.

“Right after the explosion, the three people at the portal rushed inside and found one of the five persons working at some 150ms inside the tunnel next to the small tractor that was transporting the muck out of the tunnel.

He was helped outside and admitted to the nearby Samdrupcholing BHU with severe burns from where he was referred to Guwahati,” it stated.

It also stated that other co-workers, who were outside the tunnel rushed inside to help the other four but they could not go beyond 300ms as they suffered from breathing problems.

“Three of them had to be admitted to the BHU. Two men were discharged that same evening and the third one was discharged the next day,” the press release stated.

CDCL officers at the site with support from the drungkhag administration, police and armed forces, desuups, and local people attempted many times to reach the remaining four workers who were still inside the tunnel.

It was stated that people could not go beyond 400ms in the tunnel due to breathing problems and efforts had to be abandoned for the day by late evening.

CDCL mobilised additional ventilation ducts from their Gomdar site that night and DGPC mobilised fire and safety manpower and equipment from the Tala hydropower plant.

Rescue attempts resumed early on June 16 with the replacement of the damaged ventilation ducts in the tunnel.

The minister for economic affairs ministry, Lekey Dorji, senior officers and experts from DGPC and CDCL also reached the site to assist with the rescue efforts.

The bodies of the four inside the tunnel were retrieved by 5pm.

The press release stated that while the cause of the accident is under investigation, there was no evidence of an unexploded explosive detonating in the tunnel or at any other location.

It stated that the tunnel is intact with no signs of any collapse throughout its length and the bodies of the deceased were lying on the ground and not buried under debris, as reported earlier.

Staff reporter