In a remarkable rescue operation, all 41 construction workers trapped for more than two weeks in a collapsed tunnel in Uttarakhand have been safely evacuated. The successful conclusion of this extensive rescue mission was met with cheers, hugs, and smiles, as families and officials expressed immense relief and gratitude.
The Rescue Operation
The operation, described by India’s President Droupadi Murmu as “one of the most difficult rescue missions in history,” ended with the workers being pulled out through a passageway made of welded pipes. The breakthrough came after rescuers, including a team of ‘rat miners’, manually dug through the final stretch of debris. “I feel relieved and happy to learn that all the workers trapped in a tunnel in Uttarakhand have been rescued,” President Murmu stated on the social media platform X.
Challenges and Efforts
The rescue effort faced multiple challenges due to the mountainous terrain of Uttarakhand and the breakdown of drilling machinery. Rescuers had to resort to manual digging after the drilling machine failed, boring through about 47 meters out of the approximately 57-60 meters needed. Rescue teams inserted pipes into dug-out areas, allowing workers to be brought out on wheeled stretchers.
Conditions of the Trapped Workers
Throughout their ordeal, the trapped workers received food, water, light, oxygen, and medicines through a pipe. Many of them are migrant laborers from across the country, whose families camped near the site, anxiously waiting for updates. More than a dozen doctors, including psychiatrists, were present at the site, monitoring the health of the workers.
Broader Context of the Tunnel Project
The tunnel, part of the $1.5-billion Char Dham highway project, aims to connect various Hindu pilgrimage sites through an 890-kilometer network of roads. The region, known for landslides, earthquakes, and floods, has seen increased construction activity in recent years, raising concerns about its environmental impact.
Community and Official Response
As the rescued workers were brought to safety, families and villagers near the site expressed their joy and relief. Jaimal Singh, a relative of one of the trapped workers, shared his optimism with the Press Trust of India, saying, “Even nature looks cheerful today … the weather is good. Let’s hope this ends soon.”