41 tunnel workers evacuated in Uttarakhand after being trapped for 17 days


The 41 workers who were trapped inside the Silkyara tunnel in Uttarakhand for 17 days were finally rescued late on Tuesday evening, November 28. The workers got trapped when a section of the tunnel caved in on Diwali, November 12. The debris fell in a 60-meter stretch of the Silkyara side of the under-construction tunnel.

The initial health check-up of the workers was carried out at the temporary medical camp that had been set up inside the tunnel structure. Uttarakhand Chief Minister Pushkar Dhami was at the mishap site to greet the rescued tunnel workers.

A team of 12 rat-hole mining experts spearheaded the rescue operation’s crucial final phase. The rat-hole mining workers worked to clear the last 12-meter stretch of debris at the horizontal excavation. They cleared the obstruction from the collapsed portion of the under-construction tunnel on Uttarakhand’s Char Dham route after the huge auger machine that had been deployed for the rescue operation got stuck in the rubble at around 47 meters.

“I removed the last rock and then I could see them. They hugged us and thanked us for taking us out. We worked continuously in the last 24 hours. I can’t express my happiness, I did it for my country. The respect they (trapped workers) have given us, I can’t forget my whole life,” said Munna Qureshi, a rat miner from Delhi, who was the first one to reach the other side of the collapsed portion of the tunnel.

The workers were evacuated by the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) and State Disaster Response Force (SDRF) personnel through pipes inserted through the debris. The final two meters of debris were drilled by manual horizontal drilling by ‘rat miners’. The pipes were then pushed into the passage cleared by the miners.

The rescue teams began moving inside the tunnel and the ambulances were brought to the spot at 7 p.m. and within the next 30 minutes, the first worker was brought out of the tunnel. In a little over an hour, all 41 men were evacuated safely.

An upbeat mood prevailed outside the tunnel since the morning as family members of the workers had gathered outside the tunnel when the rescue teams announced that the rat-hole miners, in coordination with the Army, manually dug through 57 meters of debris horizontally. To celebrate the safe evacuation of the workers, locals distributed sweets outside Silkyara tunnel.

“I am completely relieved and happy as 41 trapped laborers in the Silkyara Tunnel Collapse have been successfully rescued. This was a well-coordinated effort by multiple agencies, marking one of the most significant rescue operations in recent years. Various departments and agencies complemented each other despite facing numerous challenges. Tireless and sincere efforts by everyone, coupled with prayers from all, have made this operation possible. The dedicated endeavors of the rescue teams have yielded favorable results,” said transport minister Nitin Gadkari on social media platform X.


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