Silkyara tunnel rescue: All 41 trapped workers brought out safely
Prime Minister Narendra Modi hailed the ‘courage and patience’ shown by the workers. ‘I also salute the spirit of all the people associated with this rescue operation,’ he added.
All 41 workers trapped inside the Silkyara tunnel in Uttarakhand were brought out safely by the rescue personnel on November 28, thereby bringing an end to the rescue operation that lasted for over a fortnight.
Kirti Panwar, a state government spokesperson, said about a dozen men had worked overnight to manually dig through rocks and debris, taking turns to drill using hand-held drilling tools and clearing out the muck in what he said was the final stretch of the rescue operation.
Rescuers resorted to manual digging after the drilling machine broke down irreparably on Friday while drilling horizontally from the front because of the mountainous terrain of Uttarakhand. The machine bored through about 47 meters (nearly 154 feet) out of approximately the 57-60 meters (nearly 187-196 feet) needed, before rescuers started to work by hand to create a passageway to evacuate the trapped workers.
Before the first set of workers were brought out, National Disaster Management Authority Member, Lt General (Rtd) Syed Ata Hasnain said that the entire operation to evacuate workers from the Silkyara tunnel will take a couple of hours, adding that they were not in a “hurry" and the focus remained on the workers' safety.
What began as a rescue mission expected to take a few days has turned into weeks, and officials have been hesitant to give a timeline for when it might be completed.
“I just feel good. The drilling on top of the mountain is coming along perfectly, in the tunnel, it’s coming along very well. I have never said ‘I feel good’ before," Arnold Dix, an international tunneling expert who is helping with the rescue, told reporters at the site.
Most of the trapped workers are migrant laborers from across the country. Many of their families have traveled to the location, where they have camped out for days to get updates on the rescue effort and in hopes of seeing their relatives soon.
The tunnel the workers were building was designed as part of the Chardham all-weather road, which will connect various Hindu pilgrimage sites. Some experts say the project, a flagship initiative of the central government, will exacerbate fragile conditions in the upper Himalayas, where several towns are built atop landslide debris.
(With inputs from AP)
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