After 17 days, all 41 trapped workers rescued from Himalayan tunnel collapse, Indian officials say

Indian rescuers on Tuesday 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 Nov. 12.

They were pulled out on wheeled stretchers through a 90-centimetre wide steel pipe, with the entire process being completed in about an hour.

The first to be freed, a 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 V.K. Singh.

Ambulances with their lights flashing lined up at the mouth of the tunnel to transport the workers to a hospital about 30 kilometres away.

See workers after rescue from Indian tunnel

Featured VideoIndian officials say all 41 construction workers rescued after 17 days trapped underground

The 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 $1.5-billion Char Dham highway, one of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s most ambitious projects, aimed at connecting four Hindu pilgrimage sites through an 890-kilometre network of roads.

Authorities have not said what caused the cave-in but the region is prone to landslides, earthquakes and floods.

People wait outside a tunnel as rescuers tried to reach trapped construction worker
People waited near the tunnel earlier on Tuesday while the rescue operations were still underway. (Francis Mascarenhas/Reuters)

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