All 41 Indian workers rescued from tunnel after 17 days
Indian rescuers today pulled out all 41 construction workers trapped inside a collapsed tunnel in the Himalayas for 17 days, hours after drilling through the debris of rock, concrete, and earth to reach them, officials said.
The evacuation of the men - low-wage workers from some of India's poorest states - began more than six hours after rescuers broke through the debris in the tunnel in Uttarakhand state, which caved in on November 12.
They were pulled out on wheeled stretchers through a 90 centimetre (3 feet) wide steel pipe, with the entire process being completed in about an hour.
The first to be evacuated, a short man wearing a dark grey winter jacket and a yellow hard-hat, was garlanded with marigold flowers and welcomed in traditional Indian style inside the tunnel by state chief minister Pushkar Singh Dhami and federal deputy highways minister VK Singh.
Ambulances with their lights flashing had earlier lined up at the mouth of the tunnel to transport the workers to a hospital about 30 km away.
Local residents gathered outside the tunnel set off firecrackers, distributed sweets, and shouted slogans hailing Mother India.
The 41 men have been getting food, water, light, oxygen, and medicines through a pipe but efforts to dig a tunnel to rescue them with high-powered drilling machines were frustrated by a series of snags.
The tunnel is part of the USD1.5 billion Char Dham highway, one of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's most ambitious projects, aimed at connecting four Hindu pilgrimage sites through an 890- km network of roads.
Authorities have not said what caused the cave-in but the region is prone to landslides, earthquakes, and floods.