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Workers Rescued from Collapsed Tunnel in India Say First 24 Hours ‘Difficult’

The first 24 hours were difficult, some of the construction workers who were trapped for 17 days inside a collapsed mountain tunnel in northern India said Wednesday, a day after all 41 workers were rescued.

The workers, who became trapped on Nov. 12 after a landslide caused the tunnel in Uttarakhand state to cave in, were airlifted to the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, a top medical institute in Rishikesh city in Uttarakhand, where they are under observation.

39-year-old Birender Kisku, an operator among the workers, told Anadolu by phone that the initial 24 hours were difficult as they faced problems, including a lack of oxygen.

“Everyone was worried, but we consoled each other until we made first contact. Soon, oxygen and food started coming,” he said.

“During the 17 days, all the time, we supported each other.”

A massive rescue operation was launched in the state’s Uttarkashi district on Nov. 12 when the under-construction Silkyara tunnel collapsed, cutting the 41 workers off from the rest of the tunnel. They were kept alive only through supplies sent through pipes.

Kisku was on duty and had entered the tunnel after having tea when he heard a loud noise.

“Suddenly, we realized that we could not go out. Initially, there were only 30 meters blocked. Then due to more landslides, more areas got blocked,” he said.

Kisku said now he would meet his four children back home in Bihar state take a break for a month.

“I am thankful to god and the rescuers who brought us out safely,” he said.

The 17-day rescue operation was marred by a number of glitches, including the breaking of the American Auger drilling machine. The final push to reach to the trapped workers was made by men called “rat miners” who began drilling through the rocks and gravel by hand on Monday evening.

“Rat-hole” mining, a method used to extract thin seams of coal which involves drilling manually in narrow passages mostly in mines, was banned by India’s National Green Tribunal on the grounds that it was unsafe and unscientific.

Vishwajeet Kumar from Jharkhand state said they used to spend time roaming around inside the tunnel.

“We had full faith that very soon we would see the outside world,” he told Asian News International.

Source : aa