All 41 workers buried after a landslide were rescued alive after 17 days under the rubble of the Silkyara road tunnel in Uttarakhand, northern India.

“I am completely relieved and happy that 41 workers trapped in the collapse of the Silkyara tunnel were successfully rescued,” Indian Minister of Road Transport, Nitin Gadkari, said in a statement on Tuesday (28). “This was a well-coordinated multi-agency effort, marking one of the most significant rescue operations in recent years.”

Workers had been trapped at the site since November 12, when a landslide collapsed part of the 4.5-kilometer tunnel under construction about 200 meters from the entrance. Workers were kept alive through meals and oxygen sent through tubes. After surviving on dry food sent through a narrow tube for the first few days, they began receiving hot meals at the beginning of last week through a 15.24 centimeter diameter tube laid by Uttarakhand authorities.

“The trapped workers were overjoyed when they saw us in the tunnel. Some ran towards me and hugged me,” said Devender, a member of the rescue team, who gave only his first name to the New Delhi television channel.

Commotion and celebration

The workers’ families held an overnight vigil near the tunnel and there was an explosion of applause and celebrations as the workers were pulled from the rubble by the rescue team. A crowd of locals shouted “Long live mother India” (“Bharat Mata ki Jai”) and set off fireworks in celebration.

The first worker to be evacuated was Pushkar Singh Dhami. Amid applause from his family, rescue team and Uttarakhand state officials, he received a flower garland from Uttarakhand Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dham.

On Tuesday morning, Pushkar Singh Dham had announced that the rescue of the workers was close to being completed, after a steel tube wide enough to rescue the trapped people was introduced into the tunnel to pierce the rubble.

Editing: Leandro Melito


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