Forty-one workers trapped in a tunnel in Uttarakhand for 17 days have been rescued. The breakthrough came after rat miners were brought in last night and dug the last section by hand.
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All 41 workers were evacuated from the collapsed section of the tunnel and taken to the temporary hospital in the tunnel for medical monitoring and acclimatization to the temperature outside, which has dropped sharply in the past two weeks.
The first few workers were brought out on modified stretchers after NDRF (National Disaster Relief Force) personnel entered and conducted an initial assessment of their condition. Doctors say all employees are in good health.
In addition to the temporary hospital, extensive preparations have been made for the rescue. An Air Force Chinook helicopter is on standby for emergencies and a green corridor has been created to shift the workers to a hospital 35 km away in Chinyalisaur.
Ministers and political leaders expressed their relief and congratulated the rescue team in posts on social media. The celebrations started at the homes of the rescued workers. “Patience, hard work and trust won,” read the social media post of Prime Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami, who was present at the tunnel since evening and met the rescued workers and had rescue tea.
“The success of the rescue operation of our worker brothers in Uttarkashi makes everyone emotional. I want to say to the friends who were trapped in the tunnel that your courage and patience inspire everyone. I wish you all the best and good health,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi posted on X, formerly Twitter.
“I feel relieved and happy to hear that all the workers trapped in a tunnel in Uttarakhand have been rescued. Their 17-day ordeal, during which the rescue effort faced obstacles, is a testament to human endurance,” said President Droupadi Murmu.
‘Rat miners’ – workers accustomed to drilling narrow shafts as part of a primitive and currently illegal method of coal mining – had to manually excavate the rocks over a final 40-foot section that proved too heavy for an American Augur drill and several others devices.
The American Auger drill – a corkscrew-like device with a rotating blade at the front – which drilled approximately 46.8 meters deep, had to be withdrawn because the blades became contaminated by the rocky debris and iron bars that made up the tunnel ceiling.
Around 4 am on November 12, a 200 km tunnel on the Brahmakhal-Yamunotri National Highway had collapsed, trapping 41 laborers working there in a 400 meter buffer zone. The rescuers provided them with food, water, medical supplies and other essentials through pipes.
The 4.5 km tunnel on the Brahmakhal-Yamunotri National Highway, connecting Silkyara and Dandalgaon in Uttarkashi, is part of the Chardham project. Once completed, the distance is expected to be shortened by 26 km.