Uttarakhand tunnel collapse: All 41 workers rescued in 17-day op

Prime Minister Narendra Modi hails courage and patience of workers, Uttarakhand CM Pushkar Singh Dhami announces ₹1 lakh to each trapped worker

Uttarakhand Tunnel Rescue

Uttarkashi (Uttarakhand): Family members of 41 workers, who were trapped in a collapsed road tunnel of Uttarakhand, finally celebrated the festival of lights on Tuesday (November 28), after the multi-agency team evacuated them all safely in a 17-day tiring operation.

These workers were hedged in the Silkyana tunnel after huge amount of debris caved in on the morning of Diwali day (November 12). “The God was with us. The mishap had happened on the morning of Diwali, but all workers have been rescued a day after Dev Deepawali,” explained a close relatives of one of the construction workers.

“The ordeal was unbearable. We floated between hope and despair, as the multi-agency supported operation to extricate them crossed one hurdle after another, until finally all emerged from the damaged tunnel with slime on their faces, braving fatigue and trauma they had for the last 17 days,” said one of the rescuers.

Uttarakhand chief minister Pushkar Singh Dhani, who monitored the rescue operation, told media persons that none was in critical conditions. “The evacuation began with the youngest of the labourers. All of them were fit and they crawled out of the passage on their own,” he added.

Also Read: 40 workers battle for life as Chardham road project tunnel collapses

Uttarakhand CM Dhami and Union minister of state for road transportation and highways VK Singh meet the workers and enquired about their health before all of them were taken for medical examination.

PM Modi hails workers for patience

Immediately after the news about successful rescue, PM Narendra Modi wrote on X, “The success of the rescue operation of our labour 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.”

Modi further stated: “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. I also salute the spirit of all the people associated with this rescue operation. His bravery and determination have given new life to our labour brothers. Everyone involved in this mission has set an amazing example of humanity and teamwork.”

Jharkhand CM salutes to bravery and courage of trapped workers

Taking on to X, Jharkhand CM Hemant Soren said: “Our 41 brave workers have emerged victorious today after 17 days, overcoming the uncertainty, darkness and biting cold of the tunnel under construction in Uttarakhand. Salute to all your bravery and courage. The day this accident happened, was Diwali, but today is Diwali for your family…Heartfelt thanks to all the teams involved in carrying out this historic and courageous campaign…”

The last leg of rescue operation

The breakthrough came after rat-miners were brought in last evening and manually dug the last stretch. The rat-hole mining operation, which has been banned by the National Green Tribunal (NGT) for being unsafe, came to the rescue of trapped workers after high-tech, imported machines broke down at the last leg of challenging drive.

Rat-hole mining

Rat-hole mining is a method of extracting coal by digging very small pits, not more than 4-feet wide. Once the miners reach the coal seam, tunnels are made sideways to extract the coal. The coal brought out is dumped nearby to be taken through roads later. In rat-hole mining, workers enter the mines and use hand-held tools to dig. This is the most common method of mining in Meghalaya, where the coal seam is very thin and any other method risks being economically unviable.

Rescue operation blues

On Friday the rescue operation to drill 60 metre of stretch was halted when auger machine blades broke. On Sunday, plasma and magna rod cutter machines were brought in to cut auger blades. Alternative options are being sought after with vertical drilling being considered second best alternative to rescue workers.

Collapsed tunnel is part of all weather Char Dham road project

The Silkyara Bend–Barkot tunnel, being constructed by Navayuga Engineering Construction Limited (NECL), is part of the Char Dham all-weather road project connecting four sites sacred to Hindus, and it was located on the Yamunotri end of National Highway 134. That National Highway is planned to connect Dharasu on the south end to Yamunotri on the north end. The tunnel will shorten the route by about 20 kilometres. It is planned to be 4.5 kilometres long.

The collapse

It was around 5:30 am on 12 November 2023, when a portion of the Silkyara tunnel under construction collapsed. The collapse occurred around 200 meters from the entrance of the tunnel, trapping 41 construction workers inside. A team of geologists from the state government and educational institutions was sent to the location in order to determine the possible cause of the incident. According to investigators, the tunnel did not have any escape shafts for evacuation in an emergency and was built in a geological fault.

CM Dhami announces ₹1 lakh each for rescued workers

Uttarakhand CM Dhami said that the government will provide financial assistance of ₹1 lakh to all the workers trapped in the Silkyara tunnel. Instructions have been given to the officials for this. Apart from this, complete arrangements will be made for treatment in the hospital till going home, a statement issued by the Uttarakhand CMO noted.

List workers rescued

Gabbar Singh Negi and Pushkar(Uttarakhand), Saba Ahmed, Sonu Sah, Virendra Kiskoo, Sushil Kumar (Bihar), Manir Talukdar, Sevik, Jaydev Parmanik (West Bengal) Akhilesh Kumar, Ankit, Ram Milan, Satya Dev, Santosh, Jai Prakash, Ram Sundar, Manjit (Uttar Pradesh), Tapan Mandal, Bhagwan Batra, Viseshar Naik, Raju Naik, Dhiren (Odisha), Viswajit Kumar, Subodh Kumar, Anil Bedia, Rajendra Bedia, Sukram, Tinku Sardar, Gunodhar, Ranjeet, Ravindra, Sameer, Mahadev, Bhukttu Murmu, Jamra Oraon, Vijay Horo, Ganapati (Jharkhand), Sanjay and Ram Prasad (Assam) and Vishal (Himachal Pradesh). Identity of another worker could not be ascertained as yet.

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