New Delhi, India
Sears welcomed a team of 41 workers from a collapsed tunnel beneath the Himalayas on Tuesday, the culmination of an incredible and dangerous weeks-long rescue operation to drill through rock and debris.
The men were trapped after a 17-day chase by rescue teams An escape route through the mountain – with several setbacks due to technical difficulties – was hand-drilled before the last few meters.
The workers, who were trapped in the Silkyara tunnel since November 12, were rescued on Tuesday.
Video footage from the scene showed Uttarakhand Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Thami meeting the workers as they emerged from the tunnel amid jubilant scenes.
All 41 workers appear to be healthy, Dhami confirmed at a press conference Tuesday night local time.
“We will follow the doctor’s advice as they have come out of a very different environment. They will be monitored first. No one criticized,” said Thami.
“They have no symptoms of weakness or fever, they are all healthy. When there were stretchers to get them out, they chose to crawl out on their own,” he said, before thanking the workers, engineers and government departments who helped coordinate the rescue operation.
A father greets his son who has been stuck in a tunnel for 17 days.
Uttarakhand Chief Minister Rushkar Singh Thami hugs one of the rescued workers.
The rescued workers will be given checks worth 100,000 rupees (about $1,200) each, Thami said.
“We will ask the company to allow these 41 workers to go home and spend time with their families for 15 days, 20 days or 1 month,” Tami said.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said the successful rescue was “emotional for everyone”. In a report on X.
“I want to tell the men trapped in the tunnel that your bravery and patience is an inspiration to all,” he wrote.
“I salute the spirit of all the people involved in this rescue operation. Their bravery and determination has given new life to our toiling brothers. Everyone involved in this mission has set a wonderful example of humanity and teamwork,” Modi said.
The men were trapped since November 12 when they were working on the construction of the tunnel. India’s Northern Uttarakhand state led the way, blocking their only exit with 60 meters (200 ft) of broken rock, concrete and twisted metal.
Sajjad Hussain/AFP/Getty Images
Rescue workers are pictured at the entrance to the tunnel.
The first workers were evacuated after a series of painful setbacks, during which rescue efforts were halted, during which the heavy machinery used to drill through the debris broke down, forcing workers to dig partially by hand and adopt other dangerous methods to bring them to safety.
Engineers initially used a drill to break through the rubble but were forced to abandon efforts late Friday after a powerful American-made machine broke down just meters from the trapped people, forcing them to dig out by hand.
Rescuers were also simultaneously drilling down through the unstable mountainside as a backtrack to reach the trapped men. But in the end the initial plan succeeded.
After drilling, rescue crews pushed a large pipe through the last part of the exit shaft and brought the men to safety.
Ambulances wait in line near an operation to free trapped workers in Uttarakhand, India on November 28, 2023.
The workers — all migrant workers from some of India’s poorest states — are receiving food, water and oxygen through a 53-meter (173-foot) tube inserted through the garbage, and officials say they are in good health.
Doctors on site keep in touch with the men inside and offer tips on how to stay positive and calm. Their families gather at the subway exit every day to pray for their safe return.
The tunnel is part of Modi’s Sar Dham Expressway, a controversial multi-million dollar project to upgrade it. Improving the country’s transport network and connectivity to important Hindu pilgrimage sites in the region.
The plan has drawn criticism from environmentalists, who say heavy construction could severely damage the Himalayan region, where millions are already feeling the effects of the climate crisis.
As of 2020, the construction of highways “will lead to further landslides and soil erosion in an already sensitive environment,” said a panel of experts in India’s Supreme Court. Report by the court.
Officials are investigating the cause of the tunnel collapse and are likely to examine the role of drilling in the mountain. CNN contacted India’s Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change.
The tunnel’s collapse is one of the latest construction disasters to make headlines in India, which is spending billions rapidly overhauling its infrastructure. Improve its transport network.
In August, More than ten workers were killed A bridge under construction collapsed in the northeastern state of Mizoram. In June, a four-lane concrete bridge across the Ganges river in the eastern state of Bihar collapsed for the second time in a year, raising questions about the quality of its construction.
This story has been updated with additional updates.