All 41 Indian workers trapped after tunnel collapse rescued

The rescuers won the race against time in which they had engaged

All 41 Indian workers trapped after tunnel collapse rescued

The rescuers won the race against time in which they had engaged. On Tuesday, November 28, the 41 Indian workers trapped for seventeen days after the collapse of part of the tunnel under construction in the Himalayan state of Uttarakhand on November 12 were rescued. A crowd applauded their exit from the tunnel as they were draped in celebratory garlands of orange flowers and greeted by state officials, according to government photos.

Indian Road Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari praised the coordinated efforts of the rescue teams who managed to lay the last section of the steel pipe during the day to enable the rescue. After repeated setbacks, military engineers and miners worked manually to drill through rock and clear rubble to clear the final stretch and reach the imprisoned men.

Teams of three people took turns digging and inserting the last parts of the steel tube, just wide enough to allow one man to pass through and allow the workers to evacuate. When one was digging, a second removed the debris by hand and the third placed it in a cart reaching the exit, Rajput Rai, a drilling expert, explained Tuesday, quoted by the Press Trust of India news agency. The men also had to cut through a tangle of metal rods that was obstructing their progress.

Rescue efforts hampered by several difficulties

Since the collapse of the tunnel, rescue efforts have been complicated and slowed by falling debris and the successive breakdowns of drills, crucial machines for rescuing workers. Another vertical drilling had also been started from the top of the wooded hill overlooking the tunnel, a complex excavation operation above the men in an area which has already suffered a collapse.

The men had survived for more than two weeks thanks to the delivery of air, food, water and electricity via a conduit through which an endoscopic camera had been inserted. This camera allowed their families to see them last week, for the first time.

Indian billionaire Anand Mahindra paid tribute to the men who squeezed through the narrow steel pipe to manually clear the rocks. “It’s a comforting reminder that in the end, heroism is most often about individual effort and sacrifice,” he wrote on the social network X.

A relief for the country

“We thank God and the rescuers who worked hard to rescue them,” the brother of one of the trapped workers told Agence France-Presse. For more than two weeks, he had been camping on the site.

The workers were trapped in an area inside the tunnel, measuring 8.5 meters high and some 2 kilometers long. The Silkyara tunnel is part of the Char Dham highway project, dear to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, designed to improve connections with four of the most important Hindu sites in the country and also with the border regions of China.