Workers Rescued from Collapsed Indian Tunnel

Workers rescued from a Himalayan tunnel
Workers rescued from a Himalayan tunnel after being trapped for 17 days. | Image by Uttarakhand State Department of Information and Public Relations

Rescuers successfully recovered all 41 workers who had been trapped in a Himalayan tunnel for 17 days.

The workers were pulled out of the tunnel on Tuesday through an escape pipe around 8 p.m. local time, as reported by The Guardian. The escape pipe was created by a group of “rat-hole mining” experts who were flown in after the last portion of rubble was drilled away.

Rat hole mining is a type of coal mining in which workers travel through narrow tunnels to excavate materials by hand. While this practice is banned in India due to its associated risks, many countries still utilize the method.

One of the men assisting with the rescue, Devendra, who only gave reporters a first name, told the New Delhi Television channel that “the workers were so happy seeing us.”

“They hugged us and offered us almonds,” he said.

Pushkar Singh Dhami, chief minister of Uttarakhand state, was present at the tunnel during the rescue, stating that the workers involved “will follow the advice of the doctor” but that no one was in “critical” condition.

“None of their symptoms are of weakness or fever, they are all healthy. While there were stretchers for them to come out, they chose to come out crawling on their own,” Dhami added, according to CNN.

“We will also ask the company that these 41 workers be allowed to go home and spend time with their family for 15 days, 20 days, or 1 month,” he said.

In addition to likely receiving an extended period of time off, the workers will also receive checks worth 100,000 rupees, which is equivalent to roughly $1,200, per CNN.

The workers have been trapped under a tunnel called the Silkyara Bend-Barkot Tunnel since it collapsed on November 12, according to Al Jazeera.

Rescue efforts were met with multiple obstacles, including a need to ship in machinery and the presence of iron rods, cement, and other obstructions in the rubble that prevented digging.

One such obstacle occurred late last week and included a mechanical drill digging toward the workers. The development prompted officials to declare that the workers would be rescued “within hours,” according to The Guardian. This declaration led political leaders to travel to the scene; however, the drill got tangled in metal and had to be removed.

A small pipeline was set up in the tunnel that allowed for water, medical supplies, oxygen, and foods such as nuts and dried fruits to enter the tunnel for the workers.

After a few days of being trapped, a wider tunnel was created, allowing cooked foods to be sent down to the workers.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi posted a statement on social media after the rescue and said that the event “is making everyone emotional” and the workers’ “courage and patience is inspiring everyone.”

“It is a matter of great satisfaction that after a long wait these friends of ours will now meet their loved ones. The patience and courage that all these families have shown in this challenging time cannot be appreciated enough,” Modi wrote. “Everyone involved in this mission has set an amazing example of humanity and teamwork.”

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