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All 41 workers rescued from Uttarakhand tunnel after 16-day ordeal; taken to local health centre

The 41 labourers were stranded after a portion of the Silkyara tunnel on the Silkyara-Dandalgaon route, being built to facilitate the Chardham Yatra route, collapsed on November 12 on Diwali day.

DEHRADUN: Sixteen days after they were trapped in the Silkyara tunnel in Uttarakhand’s Uttarkashi, all the 41 workers finally emerged to see the light of day.

The rescued men were draped in orange marigold flower garlands in celebration as they were greeted by state officials, government photographs showed, with a line of ambulances waiting to receive them.

Crowds cheered as emergency vehicles with lights flashing readied to leave the tunnel entrance, where the workers had been trapped since a portion of the under-construction tunnel in the Himalayan state of Uttarakhand collapsed on November 12.Tunnel

Around 8 pm, an ambulance with the worker sitting in the vehicle left the mouth of the tunnel and was headed to a community health centre.

An official said rescue workers had broken through the last stretch of the rubble at about 7 pm.

NDRF and SDRF men entered the steel chute to reach the trapped workers and were bringing them out on wheeled-stretchers one by one, said a rescuer.

A worker involved in the rescue operation said, “The situation is good. Four to five people from NDRF have gone inside. The process of rescuing the workers has already begun. We are taking stretchers inside to bring the trapped workers outside…”

“The rescue work has been completed and the trapped workers will start coming out in the next 15-20 minutes. NDRF teams will pull out the workers now. It will take around half an hour to rescue all the 41 trapped workers. There are no hurdles now,” a worker involved in the rescue operation.

Earlier, Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami said that the pipe-laying work to reach the workers had been completed.

The 41 labourers were stranded after a portion of the Silkyara tunnel on the Silkyara-Dandalgaon route, being built to facilitate the Chardham Yatra route, collapsed on November 12 on Diwali day.

Officials decided to switch to manual drilling to break through the last 10 metres of the rubble after the heavy-duty auger drilling machine got stuck in the rubble on Friday.

In the process of horizontal drilling under a three-stage operation by the members of the relief team, the team of ‘rat miners’ using hand-held tools managed to make way for the trapped labourers through the tunnel through an 800 mm pipe. Twelve experts were called in to finish the last stretch of drilling in a confined space.

Uttarkashi Superintendent of Police Arpan Yaduvanshi from Silkyara told The New Indian Express, “Ambulances were lining up at the mouth of the tunnel to rush the rescued workers as they are brought off the steel chute one by one to a community health centre.”

A stretch of mud road was re-laid to make the passage of ambulances easier. Stretchers were being taken inside the mouth of the tunnel.

A special ward with 41 oxygen-supported beds was readied days earlier at the community health centre in Chinyalisaur, about 30 km from Silkyara, for the rescued workers.

Doctors were standing by and arrangements were made to fly the workers to more advanced hospitals if needed.

On the advice of psychologists and psychiatrists, the entire area outside the tunnel has been cordoned off and evacuated by the administration and relief teams.

“After being confined to the seclusion of the tunnel for the last few days and suddenly witnessing a huge crowd, it can have an adverse psychological impact on the workers, so it is necessary to keep them under medical supervision and isolation for some time,” Dr Rohit Gondwal, a physiatrist who has been camping in Silkyara for the past one week, told TNIE.

Reacting immediately to the success of the rescue operation, Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami said, “Due to the immense grace of Baba Boukh Nag Ji, prayers of crores of countrymen and tireless hard work of all the rescue teams engaged in the rescue operation, the work of laying pipes in the tunnel to evacuate the workers has been completed.



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