In the northern state of Uttarakhand, India, 41 construction workers were trapped inside the Silkyara tunnel for over 16 days, sparking a massive rescue operation that gripped the nation. The workers, trapped since November 12, were freed on Tuesday, putting an end to their harrowing ordeal. Their rescue was no easy feat, as rescuers had to resort to rat-hole mining, a primitive method of extracting coal deposits through narrow, horizontal passages, to manually clear the debris.
Relentless Rescue Efforts
The trapped workers were part of the Char Dham all-weather road project. The collapse, caused by a landslide, occurred about 200 meters from the entrance of the 4.5-kilometer tunnel they were building. Despite bad weather predictions, including thunderstorms, hail, and rain, rescuers persisted, finally reaching the trapped workers after more than a fortnight. The workers survived on food and oxygen supplied through narrow steel pipes.
Nation Holds its Breath
The rescue operation became a national concern, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi personally praising the courage and patience of the trapped workers and their families, as well as the bravery and determination of the rescue personnel. As workers emerged from the tunnel, they were greeted by Uttarakhand Chief Minister Pushkar Dhami. Locals celebrated their safe return, distributing sweets outside the Silkyara tunnel.
From the Himalayas to Hearts
After a 16-day struggle, rescuers finally cleared a path through the debris and began extracting the workers, who were pulled out through 57 meters of steel pipe on stretchers fitted with wheels. The triumphant rescue operation was marked by emotional moments, with the Prime Minister leading the nation in praising the courage and patience of the trapped workers and their families, and the bravery and determination of the rescue personnel. Uttarakhand Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami announced that Rs 1 Lakh will be awarded to each rescued worker, adding that no one is critical. The rescue was a testament to human endurance and hope, shining a light on the collective spirit and resilience of the Indian nation.