Huge relief in India: 17 days after the partial collapse of a tunnel in the Himalayas, rescuers reached the 41 trapped workers. Everyone could be saved. Emergency teams brought the men outside on rollable stretchers on Tuesday evening (local time) through a 90 centimeter wide pipe that had previously been laboriously drilled through the rubble. According to the circumstances, those rescued are doing well, said a civil protection employee on Tuesday.
Road Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari said on Tuesday that he was “relieved and happy” that the workers could be “successfully rescued” after the tunnel collapse in the northern state of Uttarakhand. The 17-day rescue operation is one of the “most significant rescue operations in recent years”.
Their families, who had hoped so much for this moment, were waiting outside the tunnel. Ambulances were supposed to take the workers to a clinic for a health check.
The days and hours before the rescue were characterized by ups and downs of emotions. Officials and journalists on site repeatedly spoke of the imminent liberation of those trapped. But then the rescuers continually encountered new obstacles, such as a steel lattice girder.
Specialist miners, together with the army, finally overcame the last meters of rubble by hand using the smallest of devices - in the end all the large machines had failed. At the same time, extreme caution was required to avoid causing further collapses, for example due to vibrations during the drilling.
During the rescue work, the men were supplied with oxygen, water, food and medicine through narrow pipes. They have also been in contact with the rescuers and their relatives using a camera since last week.
The 4.5 kilometer long motorway tunnel currently under construction partially collapsed on November 12th following a landslide. The workers were stuck behind tons of rock about 200 meters from the entrance. The scene of the accident is near the small town of Uttarkashi in the Himalayan state of Uttarakhand, a popular tourist region with many Hindu temples. The tunnel was intended to improve transport connections there.