Forty-one labourers, trapped in a tunnel in Uttarakhand for 17 days, have been rescued. The breakthrough came after rat-miners were brought in last evening and manually dug the last stretch.
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All 41 workers have been evacuated from the collapsed portion of the tunnel and they have been taken to the temporary hospital put up inside the tunnel for medical check-up and acclimatisation to the temperature outside, which has dropped much over the last two weeks.
The first few workers were brought out by modified stretchers after the personnel of the NDRF (National Disaster Relief Force) went in and did a primary evaluation of their condition. Doctors say all the workers are in good health.
Besides the temporary hospital, elaborate preparations have been made for the rescue. An Air Force Chinook chopper is standing by for emergencies and a green corridor has been created to transfer the workers to a hospital 35 km away at Chinyalisaur.
Ministers and political leaders expressed their relief and congratulated the rescue team in social media posts. Celebrations started at the homes of the rescued workers. "Patience, hard work and faith won," read the social media post from Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami, who was present at the tunnel since evening and met the escued workers and the rescue tea,
"The success of the rescue operation of our labourer brothers in Uttarkashi is making everyone emotional. I want to say to the friends who were trapped in the tunnel that your courage and patience is inspiring everyone. I wish you all well and good health," Prime Miister Narendra Modi posted on X, formerly Twitter.
"I feel relieved and happy to learn that all the workers trapped in a tunnel in Uttarakhand have been rescued. Their travails over 17 days, as the rescue effort met with obstacles, have been a testament of human endurance," posted President Droupadi Murmu.
"Rat miners" -- labourers used to drilling narrow shafts as part of a primitive and currently illegal method of coal extraction -- had to manually dig the rocks over a 12-metre last stretch that proved too tough for an American Augur drill and several other devices.
The American Auger drill -- a corkscrew-like device with a rotary blade at the front end -- which drilled around 46.8 metres, had to be withdrawn as its blades got fouled up by the rocky debris and iron rods that formed part of the tunnel ceiling.
Around 4 am on November 12, a 200-km area of a tunnel on the Brahmakhal-Yamunotri National Highway had collapsed, trapping 41 labourers working there in a 400 meter buffer zone. The rescue workers have been providing them with food, water, medical supplies and other essentials through pipes.
The 4.5-km tunnel on the Brahmakhal-Yamunotri National Highway, which will join Silkyara and Dandalgaon in Uttarkashi, is part of the Chardham project. Once finished, it is expected to cut down the distance by 26 km.