Miraculous Rescue: 41 Workers Freed from Silkyara Tunnel After 17-Day Ordeal
The Harrowing 17-Day Ordeal Comes to an End in Silkyara Tunnel
The 17-day ordeal for 41 laborers trapped in the Silkyara tunnel in Uttarkashi concluded on Tuesday after a landslide caused the collapse of the tunnel on November 12. The tunnel was a crucial part of the Centre’s ambitious Char Dham project.
A team of experts, specializing in rat-hole mining, successfully breached the last stretch of rubble around 7 pm, paving the way for the rescue operation. The National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) and State Disaster Response Force, Assam (SDRF) orchestrated the rescue, bringing out each trapped worker on wheeled stretchers.
Background and Rescue
The exit of the under-construction tunnel was blocked after a portion collapsed on November 12, trapping 41 workers inside. The final challenge in the rescue operation was tackled by a group of rat-hole mining experts and the process typically involved extracting small amounts of coal by going down narrow burrows. They were called in to carry out manual drilling after a huge American-made auger boring machine got stuck in the horizontal passage that had been dug up to about 47 meters, the latest in a series of snags as its blades encountered hurdles like iron girders.
Officials had lined up five other options if the approach through the stretch of rubble failed. These included digging 86 meters down from above the tunnel. By Tuesday, the vertical shaft had reached 45 meters. The rat-hole mining experts worked in groups of two or three at a time in the confined space using hand-held tools at the end of the 800-mm wide steel pipe. The NDRF personnel entered for the final act of rescue.
Emotional Moments and Heroic Rescue Scenes
As the trapped workers emerged from the tunnel, a mix of emotions filled the air—some had smiling faces, while others appeared grateful and exhausted. Outside the tunnel, loud cheers and slogans resonated as ambulances transported the workers to community health centers. Emotional reunions unfolded as anxious relatives, who had been camping in the area, embraced the workers after days of uncertainty.
Back home, families distributed ‘laddoos’ to celebrate the successful rescue. Families, glued to televisions and phones, rejoiced as news of the workers’ safe emergence spread.
Post-Rescue Medical Evaluation and Future Steps
Today, Indian Air Force’s Chinook helicopter is expected to transport all 41 rescued workers to AIIMS in Dehradun. Medical professionals will conduct thorough examinations to assess any trauma or infections the workers may have endured during the 17-day ordeal.
Before their journey to AIIMS, Uttarakhand Chief Minister Dhami is anticipated to meet the workers at Chinyalisour hospital, where they were initially taken after the rescue on Tuesday evening.
Chief Minister Dhami highlighted that instead of using wheeled stretchers through a steel tube, the workers crawled out of the collapsed tunnel, with assistance from the NDRF team. No worker was reported to be in critical condition, according to the Chief Minister.
Rescue Challenges and Multi-Faceted Approach
The rescue operation faced challenges, with a massive auger boring machine getting stuck in the horizontal passage. Rat-hole mining experts were brought in for manual drilling after encountering hurdles like iron girders. Multiple options, including digging from above the tunnel, were lined up if the initial approach failed.
The rat-hole mining experts, working in confined spaces, played a crucial role in the final act of rescue. The Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, commended the successful operation, acknowledging the exemplary display of humanity and teamwork. Modi personally spoke to the rescued workers, expressing his wishes for their good health and well-being.
Recognition and Future Measures
Prime Minister Modi saluted the spirit of those involved in the rescue, acknowledging their courage and resolve. He described the operation as an extraordinary example of humanity.
Chief Minister Dhami thanked Prime Minister Modi for constant support and motivation during the rescue operation. The Chief Minister announced financial assistance of Rs 1 lakh for each of the 41 construction workers.
In the aftermath of the incident, the Union government has decided to conduct a safety audit of under-construction tunnels. The Chief Minister emphasized the reconstruction of the Baukhnag temple and a comprehensive review of tunnels under construction in the hill state.
Chief Minister Dhami personally met and interacted with the ITBP personnel involved in the Silkyara tunnel rescue, expressing gratitude for their role in the successful operation.
The successful rescue operation not only marks a triumph over adversity but also underscores the importance of collaborative efforts and a multi-faceted approach in managing critical situations. The celebration of the workers’ safe return is accompanied by a commitment to future safety measures and continued support for those involved in the rescue.