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


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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. 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. #WATCH | #Uttarakhand Chief Minister #PushkarSinghDhami and Union Minister General V K Singh met the labourers rescued from the tunnel by relief teams. pic.twitter.com/hDvsn0QjK2 — The New Indian Express (@NewIndianXpress) November 28, 2023 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. CM Dhami greets the rescued worker The simultaneous vertical drilling to reach the workers from above the tunnel was called off amid the breakthrough by the team of 'rat miners' who were carrying out the horizontal drilling. 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. 'Modi hai to mumkin hai': Locals gather at Silkyara tunnel site, shout slogans Some people were shouting slogans like 'Bharat Mata Ki Jai' and 'Modi hai to Mumkin hai' in acknowledgement of the multi-agency rescue operation going on for over a fortnight at the tunnel. On Tuesday, rescue workers appeared close to breaking through the 60-metre stretch of rubble of the collapsed tunnel. The locals also sang in prase of local deity 'Baba Baukhnag' and expressed their gratitude to him. The priest of a temporary temple of Baba Baukhnag, which was set up at the tunnel site, arrived and offered prayers. "It is happening because of the blessings of Baba Baukhnag," priest Ram Narayan Awasthi told PTI. Manoj Silwal, a farmer and resident of village Nangal, said he had been coming here everyday to hear the good news that finally came on Tuesday. "I wanted to see the workers coming out," said Silwal. Rajesh Bijalwan, an advocate by profession and resident of village Brahmkhal, said, "I want to salute the rescue team. (With inputs from agencies) (THE NEW INDIAN EXPRESS)