When all else failed, workers with pickaxes actually came to rescue the 41 buried people from the Silkyara Tunnel. They were seen, captured from a distance by television cameras, marching single file into the tunnel. The government banned cameras from the immediate entrance area because they hindered the rescue work, which lasted 17 days.
When the workers finally reached the trapped people on Tuesday evening local time, it was already dark and the temperatures in the Himalayan mountains had fallen to 14 degrees. Then the evacuation pipe had to be pushed through and cleared of debris before rescue workers could crawl through.
National Disaster Response Force personnel first entered the pipe to assess the condition of those trapped and guide them through rescue protocols. Each worker was strapped to a stretcher, which was then pulled by hand through a 3-foot-wide tube 200 feet through rock and debris. One every five to seven minutes.
Helicopters were waiting outside to take her to a hospital. The men are doing well under the circumstances, said a civil protection employee. A supervising doctor told the ND-TV news channel that those freed may suffer from “insomnia, bad dreams and anxiety.” Their families, who had been hoping for this moment for days, were waiting outside the tunnel.
The men were locked in the four and a half kilometer long tunnel in the Indian state of Uttarakhand for more than 400 hours. A long time, even if they have been supplied with food and medicine for a few days through a small hole. Attempts to use heavy machinery to drill horizontally through the rubble and rubble to reach the trapped people initially failed because the equipment broke down during continuous use. The attempt to reach the workers from above was also stopped a few meters before the breakthrough. The authorities have been using “Rat Miner” since Monday.
The so-called rat mining is a simple method of mining coal deposits through narrow passages. The name comes from the rats’ ability to quickly burrow through narrow holes. In this way, six specialists from central India drove a 90 centimeter wide pipe horizontally, meter by meter, through the rubble. “The three of us go into the tunnel, one drills, the other collects the mud and the third transports it to the back in a cart,” Rakesh Rajput, one of the miners, told the news agency Reuters.
“India is causing too many disasters in the Himalayas”
The tunnel is part of the $1.5 billion Char Dham National Highway – one of the most ambitious projects of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). It is intended to connect four Hindu pilgrimage sites through an 890 kilometer long road network. But the longer the rescue work took, the louder the voices questioned the purpose of building the tunnel became. Hemant Soren, chief minister of the poor state of Jharkhand, where 15 of the 41 men come from, criticized the BJP government on Monday, saying “they take workers from poor and backward states for such risky projects and if something happens to them there, who cares? ” Soren has been competing with the BJP for years.
To date, the government has not released any information about what caused the collapse. But the Himalayan region where the tunnel was drilled is prone to landslides, earthquakes and floods. “India is causing too many disasters in the Himalayas” was the headline of the business magazine Bloomberg At the end of last week. “The government’s increasing rush to build at high altitudes is endangering lives and an irreplaceable ecosystem.” But the election campaign is underway and Prime Minister Modi wants to use success stories to help himself to a third term in office.