41 construction workers trapped for 17 days in a collapsed tunnel in India’s Himalayan Uttarakhand state were successfully brought to safety on Tuesday. The workers, who had been stranded since November 12, emerged dazed but smiling from the tunnel, culminating in a jubilant celebration at the site.
The rescue mission had faced numerous setbacks, including technical issues with drilling machines and challenging mountainous terrain. The workers survived on food and oxygen supplied through narrow steel pipes while rescue teams drilled an escape route through the debris.
The final stretch of the rescue required manual digging through rocks and debris after the drilling machine broke down. Families anxiously waited for their loved ones to emerge, and the successful extraction was met with cheers and firecrackers.
All 41 workers, mostly migrant laborers from across the country, appeared healthy as they underwent initial health check-ups. They were rescued through a passageway made of welded pipes pushed through the debris.
Nitin Gadkari, the minister of road transport and highways, expressed relief and happiness, praising the well-coordinated effort by multiple agencies in one of the most significant rescue operations in recent years.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi commended the workers’ bravery and patience, stating that their courage and determination set an amazing example of humanity and teamwork. Each rescued worker will receive checks worth 100,000 rupees, and the government intends to allow them time with their families.
The collapsed tunnel is part of the controversial Char Dham Highway project, criticized by environmentalists for its potential impact on the fragile Himalayan region. Authorities are investigating the cause of the collapse.