Rescuers on Tuesday extracted all 41 workers trapped for 17 days inside a collapsed tunnel in the Himalayan, triggering jubilation across India.
Reuters reported that the workers, hailing from some of India’s poorest states, were evacuated after a painstaking effort that began six hours after the tunnel’s collapse in Uttarakhand state caved in on November 12.
Using a 90 cm wide steel pipe, the rescue operation took about an hour to complete, and the workers were brought out on wheeled stretchers.
The condition of the rescued workers was reported to be excellent, easing concerns about their health, according to Wakil Hassan, a rescue team leader.
The first worker to emerge from the tunnel was greeted with marigold flowers and traditional Indian hospitality by state chief minister Pushkar Singh Dhami and federal deputy highways minister V.K. Singh.
Many of the rescued workers expressed their gratitude with smiles, clasped hands, and gestures of thanks as they pulled out from the tunnel.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi praised the workers’ courage and patience and personally spoke to them by phone to inquire about their well-being.
Following the successful rescue, a safety audit of the tunnel will be conducted, as announced by Federal Road Transport and Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari.
Ambulances transported the workers to a hospital, and they will be allowed to return to their home states once cleared by doctors.
Families of the trapped workers expressed immense relief and joy, celebrating with firecrackers and sweets outside the tunnel.
The cave-in incident initially received little attention due to coinciding with Diwali and cricket World Cup events, but it gained national prominence as the rescue effort progressed.
Politicians, business leaders, and spiritual figures from across India praised the rescue mission and the dedication of the workers, demonstrating a unified sense of pride and gratitude for their safe return.