All the 41 construction workers trapped in a collapsed tunnel at Silkyara in Uttarakhand for 17 days were successfully rescued late on neared its completion on Tuesday evening as the experts drilling a rat-hole through the rubble reached them.
All the 41 workers had been rescued within a matter of two hours late on Tuesday evening. Immediately after coming out of the collapsed tunnel, the workers were treated by medical professionals at the site. Each worker was pulled out using a stretcher tied with ropes. The rescued workers were immediately provided with warm clothes and medical and psychological counselling. Post this, they would be shifted to a makeshift hospital which has been set up especially to treat them. If a worker is critical, he would be shifted to AIIMS Rishikesh.
The rescued workers seemed visibly relieved and were being received by Uttarakhand Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami. The workers, when they were trapped inside the tunnel, had been provided with hot meals, warm clothes and medicines including anti-anxiety and sleeping pills to help them cope with the trauma and claustrophobia. These supplies were ferried through the two pipelines that had been drilled through the debris. A communication link was also established to allow family members of the workmen to speak with them.
“I am so relieved and happy that my son has been rescued,” said the father of one of the trapped workers who reached the site a week back from his village in Uttar Pradesh.
Briefing the media earlier in the day, National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) Member, Lt General Syed Ata Hasnain (Retd.) said that there were multiple rescue plans in motion, and none would be suspended till the last worker is out of the tunnel. “This whole operation has entailed coordination and cooperation from multiple agencies. All the efforts will continue till we have saved the last of the workers,” he said.
Operations to rescue the trapped workers were planned and executed on an unprecedented scale. Officials said that barring national emergencies, there are few instances where so many agencies, States, government departments and private companies worked on a single platform.
It involved coordinating between more than a dozen government arms including public sector undertakings (PSUs), national and state level disaster response forces, NDMA, Defence Research & Development Organisation (DRDO) Indian Air Force, Indian Army, Border Roads Organisation (BRO) and several state governments including Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh.
The operations stretched from transporting huge machines and drillers from Hyderabad and Nashik via IAF planes and then transporting them through the hilly roads to seeking assistance from international tunnelling experts for reaching the trapped workmen.
Toiling with heavy construction machinery and under inhospitable conditions at more than 1,100 meters above sea level since November 12, the rescue teams achieved the breakthrough on Tuesday evening by completing the horizontal passage from the Silkyara end with the help of skilled miners, who are experts in working under closed and cramped places.