Silkyara Tunnel Rescue: All 41 workers finally freed after 17 days

The workers trapped in the collapsed under-construction tunnel in Uttarakhand have finally been extricated. Ambulances are taking them away to healthcare facilities quickly

Uttarakhand chief minister Pushkar Singh Dhami and several mediapersons throng one of the first rescued workers from the Silkyara tunnel, plying him with garlands and questions (photo: IANS)
Uttarakhand chief minister Pushkar Singh Dhami and several mediapersons throng one of the first rescued workers from the Silkyara tunnel, plying him with garlands and questions (photo: IANS)
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NH Digital

Five out of 41 workers are out from the Silkayara tunnel now, with the very first having been whisked away by ambulance at 8pm, after a quick check-up.

It's been a harrowing 17 days, doubtless, for the 41 workers trapped in the collapsed Silkyara tunnel in Uttarakhand. Rescuers finally broke through to the section they are stuck in around 7:30 pm today.

NDRF and SDRF personnel are entering the steel chute to reach the trapped workers since then, and are bringing them out on wheeled pallets one by one, one of the rescuers on site told PTI.

While their ordeal is finally being celebrated as "over" by the nation, the exhausted workers apparently still have a gauntlet to walk — past cameras and reporters, government officials bent on garlanding them for their bravery and crowding in with congratulations and performative solicitousness, before they may reach succour and possibly some comforting solitude at last.

They're not likely to have it easy in the days ahead either, with media attention sure to peak as they gradually—hopefully—start to come home at last.

For now, there are jubilant chants outside of 'Modi hai to mumkin hai' (Modi makes it possible) and 'Jai Shri Ram' outside the tunnel entrance as they are brought out — as loud as on social media.

Around 8 pm, the ambulance carrying the very first rescued worker, in good enough health to be sitting upright, left the tunnel for the community health centre on standby, 30 kilometres away.

He and his co-workers were pulled up via a pipe laid with the help of an auger machine after rat miners and Army engineers were able to cut through the final 58 metres of debris today to make room for this makeshift metal 'exit tunnel'.

A part of the under-construction tunnel had collapsed on 12 November.

The rescue effort that then began has included local workers as well as the project engineers, scientists and international mining experts such as Arnold Dix, the NDRF, the SDRF, the Indian Army and the BRO.

Medical personnel have been at the spot to ensure the workers maintained the best possible health, and have been on standby for several days to extend first aid and the first medical check-ups for the rescued labourers. Thankfully, there were no health emergencies reported.

The last, key part of the rescue team was, however, the rat-mining crew — plying their trade with experience and courage, a trade that is actually illegal for being as dangerous as it is.


After all the excitement is done tonight, it will be time too to felicitate and thank the rather large rescue team for its efforts, and admire their persistence in the face of one obstacle after another — from broken machinery, to lack of room to manoeuvre, to worrying signs of water seepage, to sometimes a lack of expert guidance, it has seemed.

Messages of gratitude and commendation, and good wishes for the health of the workers have already started flooding social media platforms.

So today, tonight is a good night. The post-mortem can wait.

With inputs from PTI and IANS.

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Published: 28 Nov 2023, 8:36 PM
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