The 41 workers who were trapped in the Silkyara tunnel in Uttarakhand were finally rescued safely on November 28, after 17 days of close to no contact with the outside world. Since rescue operations made headway on Tuesday, the entire evacuation process took over six hours to make contact with the workers and bring them all back to safety.
The free workers were welcomed back to freedom with garlands and sweets. They will now be admitted to the Community Health Centre in Chinyalisaur for medical examinations.
How They Were Rescued
VIDEO | Uttarkashi tunnel collapse UPDATE: Sweets distributed as trapped workers are being rescued from the Silkyara tunnel.#UttarakhandTunnelRescue #UttrakhandTunnelCollapse pic.twitter.com/o2QXrSQOXF
— Press Trust of India (@PTI_News) November 28, 2023
"We are thankful to God and the rescuers who worked hard to save them," Naiyer Ahmad, whose younger brother Sabah Ahmad is among the trapped workers, told the news agency Agence France Presse. All the workers are reportedly safe and healthy. Families of the workers had been anticipating their arrival since morning, as news of the rescue operations moving forward reached them.
Silkyara Tunnel Rescue : मजदूरों के रेस्क्यू पर पिता के चेहरे पर दिखी खुशी ! #UttrakashiTunnelRescueOperation #UttarakhandTunnel #UttarkashiRescue #uttarakhandtunnelcollapse #uttarkashirescueoperation #uttarkashi #OperationZindagi #SilkyaraTunnel #ambulance #viralvideo pic.twitter.com/PThwZhrKdU— City Headlines (@CityHeadlines2) November 28, 2023
Continued efforts to rescue the 41 trapped workers proved fruitful after 17 days since rat-hole minors were brought in on Tuesday morning. The rat-hole mining practice was banned by the National Green Tribunal in 2014 for being unscientific and unsafe but came to the aid of the workers in times of crisis. Two teams of specialists, a total of 12 men, and high-end imported tools were flown in from Delhi for this task.
A temporary medical camp with 8 beds, ambulances, and a team of experts and doctors was set up by the Health Ministry inside the tunnel to allow no delay in the treatment of the 41 workers as soon as there was contact. An Indian Air Force helicopter also reached the spot to airlift workers post-rescue.
Uttarakhand Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami also reached the tunnel to inspect the rescue operation. At about 2:17 pm, the Chief Minister posted on his X account that after hours of drilling, the debris had finally been pushed through and pipes were being laid for the evacuation of all the workers.
Day 17- Rescue operation inside the #SilkyaraTunnel is in Progress. Pipe inserted inside more. Good News likely to be today if everything goes well. #Prayer and #HardWork both will give good result. #RescueOperation @indiatvnews pic.twitter.com/uFXkCXgwr6— Manish Prasad (@manishindiatv) November 28, 2023
At around 7 pm, the pipes finally reached the trapped workers, and within an hour, all 41 of them were evacuated one after the other.
The Tunnel Crash
On November 12, the Silkyara tunnel on the Char Dham route collapsed and trapped 41 labourers for ten gruelling days. The families of those inside are grappling with the harsh reality that their loved ones' voices are growing weaker and their strength is fading in the darkness.
On November 21, the centre devised a 5-action plan executed by multiple agencies while an international expert arrived yesterday on site. Meanwhile, for the first time in 10 days, the faces of the workers trapped inside were spotted as they were also provided with hot meals for the first time.
सिलक्यारा, उत्तरकाशी में निर्माणाधीन सुरंग के अंदर फँसे श्रमिकों से पहली बार एंडोस्कोपिक फ्लेक्सी कैमरे के माध्यम से बातचीत कर उनका कुशलक्षेम पूछा गया। सभी श्रमिक बंधु पूरी तरह सुरक्षित हैं। pic.twitter.com/vcr28EHx8g— Pushkar Singh Dhami (@pushkardhami) November 21, 2023
Separation From Outside World
On the tenth day of the workers trapped in the tunnel, the rescue operations were suspended due to technical issues with a crucial auger machine. The health conditions of the men inside were deteriorating, leaving families helpless and anxious.
The workers trapped inside the tunnel were constantly provided oxygen and were given light edibles such as chana, badam, kheer, and khichdi. Many of their families vigil outside, hoping for a glimmer of hope, and camped outside for days while the Uttrakhand Government announced to provide the families with health services, food, and places to stay.
As the halt in rescue operations exacerbated anxiety in the families of the 41 trapped workers, the families of these workers are communicating through the broken tunnel, speaking on the radio.
A 25-year-old worker trapped inside named Pushkar asked his brother not to let their mother know, as he said, "Don't let Ma know I am one of those workers trapped inside the tunnel, as a mother will be worried if you tell her the truth," said Pushkar to his brother Vikram.
Maharaj Singh, the brother of Gabbar Singh Negi (another worker trapped inside), said his brother's voice sounded feeble as he tried to communicate with him through the supplying pipes, while Gabbar Singh's other brother (Prem) questioned "How long will they can sustain like this?"
Gabbar Singh's son (Akash) also echoed their uncles as he talked about his trapped father, saying, "He said he was alright, but his voice was weak." he also added, "India has developed digitally, and Chandrayaan has reached the moon, yet they cannot evacuate people trapped for a week," alleging rescue works to have stopped.
While Haridwar Sharma, the elder brother of Sushil (another worker trapped), tearfully broke down and alleged there had been no work going on at the site, he said, "We are just getting assurances. Neither government nor company people are doing anything."
An endoscopic camera was sent inside the food supplying pipe as the video of the site was shared by Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami on his X account where the workers are instructed to come near the camera and wave and talk to them through walkie talkie, while the workers are seen confirming they are safe.
Multiple agencies such as ITBP, NDRF, SDRF, and BRO are carrying out a round-the-clock rescue operation while a robotics team from DRDO as well as an international tunelling expert also arrived n the site yesterday.