Pushkar Singh Dhami (right) greets a worker rescued from the site of an under-construction road tunnel that collapsed in Silkyara in Uttarakhand, India, on Tuesday. AP
"I am completely relieved and happy as 41 trapped labourers in the Silkyara tunnel Collapse have been successfully rescued," Minister of Road Transport Nitin Gadkari said in a statement. "This was a well-coordinated effort by multiple agencies, marking one of the most significant rescue operations in recent years."
Earlier, cheers and jubilation erupted as rescuers reached 41 construction workers who were trapped in a collapsed mountain tunnel for over two weeks in the country's north and started pulling them out, officials said.
The workers were pulled out through a passageway made of welded pipes which rescuers previously pushed through dirt and rocks.
As the first worker was pulled out, Pushkar Singh Dhami, Chief Minister of the state of Uttarakhand presented him with a garland and hung it around his neck as rescuers, officials and relatives cheered.
The massive rescue mission has grabbed the country’s attention for the past weeks. The workers got trapped on Nov. 12, when a landslide caused a portion of the 4.5-kilometer tunnel they were building in Uttarakhand state to collapse about 200 meters from the entrance.
They survived on food and oxygen supplied through narrow steel pipes.
Kirti Panwar, a state government spokesperson, said about a dozen men had worked overnight to manually dig through rocks and debris, taking turns to drill using hand-held drilling tools and clearing out the muck in what he said was the final stretch of the rescue operation.
Rescuers resorted to manual digging after the drilling machine broke down irreparably on Friday while drilling horizontally from the front because of the mountainous terrain of Uttarakhand.
The machine bored through about 47 meters out of approximately the 57-60 meters needed, before rescuers started to work by hand to create a passageway to evacuate the trapped workers.
Hasnain said rescuers had managed to drill through more than 58 meters so far.
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