In Uttarakhand, a region known for its rich Hindu temples and intense infrastructure development catering to pilgrims and tourists, a disaster struck in an under-construction tunnel. On November 12, a landslide triggered the collapse of a section of the 4.5-kilometer tunnel, trapping workers approximately 200 meters from the entrance. Confined for 17 days, these individuals became the focal point of a relentless rescue operation involving military engineers and miners meticulously removing rock and debris by hand. A wide steel tube was inserted to bore through the debris 57 meters deep, with the team already 52 meters into the tunnel. The workers received hot meals via a 15.24-centimeter tube, and oxygen was supplied through a separate channel. The tunnel forms part of the Chardham road, a prominent federal project connecting Hindu pilgrimage sites.
Rescue Operation Culminates in Success
After 17 days of persistent efforts, all 41 workers trapped in the Silkyara tunnel were safely evacuated. The rescue operation, involving manual burrowing through the remaining rubble, saw rat hole miners and the Army working in unison. The extracted workers were immediately taken for a health check-up. The success of the operation garnered praise from across the nation, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Minister VK Singh. Uttarakhand Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami greeted the rescued workers personally.
Rat Hole Mining Specialists to the Rescue
The rescue operation was unique for its usage of rat hole mining specialists who initiated manual drilling through the debris. This alternative approach was adopted after a large auger machine got stuck, and approximately 40% of the required vertical drilling was completed. Despite the challenges, the drilling operation culminated in the successful extraction of all the trapped workers. External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar expressed his gratitude to everyone involved in the rescue operation.
A Moment of National Relief and Gratitude
The successful rescue of all 41 workers trapped inside the tunnel was a moment of national relief and gratitude. Union Home Minister Amit Shah and President Droupadi Murmu hailed the rescue operation. The 17-day ordeal of the workers finally came to an end, with celebrations erupting in Odisha as all 41 workers, including five from the State, were rescued. Prime Minister Modi penned an emotional note expressing his feelings for the trapped laborers and the dedicated rescuers. Uttarakhand's Chief Minister announced financial aid and comprehensive arrangements for medical treatment for the rescued workers, highlighting the nation's collective responsibility and response to the crisis.