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17-day nightmare ends, 41 trapped workers rescued

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17-day nightmare ends, 41 trapped workers rescued
Uttarkashi: In a remarkable feat, the 400-hour ordeal of 41 construction workers trapped in the Silkyara-Barkot tunnel here reached a positive conclusion this evening. The unprecedented rescue operation, the first of its kind in the country, saw all workers evacuated safely, bringing relief and cheer all around.

The rescue operation, involving over 200 experts from various government and private agencies as well as rat-hole miners, lasted 17 days. The workers had got trapped on November 12. The workers, who are reported to be in good health, will undergo medical observation as a precaution.

The multi-agency operation included the intricate task of drilling through rubble and iron bars, showcasing the collaborative efforts of professionals from India and abroad. A steel chute, lining a 60-metre escape passage, facilitated the workers’ safe exit. The rescue met with applause and patriotic chants from onlookers. Union Minister Gen VK Singh (retd) and Uttarakhand CM Pushkar Singh Dhami personally welcomed the rescued workers as National Disaster Response Force personnel brought them out. The first worker, Vijay Kumar, emerged to a cheering crowd, marking the beginning of a sequence where each worker was safely pulled out on a wheeled stretcher.

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Inside a makeshift hospital set up within the tunnel, a team of doctors awaited the rescued workers for immediate medical examination. The workers were trapped since Diwali morning (November 12) due to a landslide that caused a section of the 4.5-kilometre tunnel to collapse just 200 metres from the entrance.

A crucial breakthrough came when rat-miners played a pivotal role in manual drilling after a US-made auger machine faced technical issues. The rat-miners completed the drilling, creating a passage through the rubble, allowing for the workers’ evacuation. The NDRF team then executed the evacuation process using specially designed wheeled stretchers, with ambulances ready to transport them to a medical facility in Chinyalisaur.

Dhami, during a media interaction after the operation, said he had fulfilled the task assigned by the PM, who emphasised on providing medical assistance to all workers and arranging for their return home. The workers will remain under medical observation and a decision regarding their return home will be made based on consultation with doctors.

Despite a temporary setback in the evening when muck obstructed the main pipe, causing a two-hour delay, the expert team persevered, successfully inserting a 900 mm pipe through the rubble to ensure evacuation of the workers.

NEWS

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