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Uttarakhand Tunnel Rescue: All 41 trapped workers evacuated after 17 days of nonstop digging

Courtesy: Geo News/Reuters

The laborers trapped in Uttarakhand collapsed tunnel received sustenance through a 53-meter pipe and remained in good health

  • Evacuation began six hours after rescuers broke through debris.
  • A 3-foot diameter pipe was used to extract labourers one by one.
  • All rescued workers placed under medical observation for now.

Rescuers in northern India have successfully extracted all of the 41 workers who were trapped in the Silkyara tunnel in Uttarakhand since November 12, CNN reported.

The workers, involved in the construction of the tunnel, were trapped when a section collapsed, obstructing their only exit with over 60 meters of debris.

The rescue efforts encountered difficulties, including breakdowns of heavy machinery used for drilling through the debris, leading to manual excavation and alternative risky methods.

Ambulances wait in line near the operation to free the trapped workers in Uttarakhand, India, November 28, 2023.—ReutersAmbulances wait in line near the operation to free the trapped workers in Uttarakhand, India, November 28, 2023.—Reuters

Despite setbacks, engineers successfully drilled downward through the mountain terrain as a backup plan. Subsequently, rescuers inserted a large pipe through the exit shaft to bring the workers to safety.

The labourers, all migrants from some of India’s economically disadvantaged states, received sustenance through a 53-meter pipe and remained in good health.

Doctors on-site provided guidance on maintaining a positive and calm demeanour, and families gathered daily at the tunnel exit for prayers. The Silkyara tunnel is part of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Char Dham Highway project, aimed at upgrading the country’s transport network and improving connectivity to important Hindu pilgrimage sites in the region.
Rescue personnel pictured at the entrance to the tunnel.—AFPRescue personnel pictured at the entrance to the tunnel.—AFP

The successful extraction of the trapped workers comes after a series of challenges, including breakdowns of heavy machinery used for drilling and the adoption of riskier methods.

Engineers had initially attempted to excavate the debris in the exit shaft using heavy machinery, but a breakdown of the US-made drill forced them to abandon these efforts.

Simultaneously, rescuers drilled downward through the unstable mountain terrain, with the initial plan ultimately proving successful.

With the drilling completed, rescuers utilised a large pipe to facilitate the workers’ exit through the last part of the shaft. Despite the challenges faced during the rescue mission, the workers are now out of immediate danger, and authorities continue to provide support and monitor their well-being.

1- Header image: Workers who had been stuck in the Silkyara tunnel since November 12 started to be rescued on Tuesday.—Reuters

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