India: 41 workers trapped in tunnel begin to be evacuated after 17 days underground

Light at the end of the tunnel in India: The 41 workers trapped underground for more than two weeks have begun to be evacuated, after rescue teams laid the last section of the pipe to free them on Tuesday (28 November). Part of the tunnel they were digging in the Himalayas had collapsed on top of them, and since then search teams had been working tirelessly for more than two weeks. According to local media, workers have begun to be evacuated.

Rescuers work at the site of a road tunnel under construction that collapsed in Silkyara, northern Indian state of Uttarakhand, Tuesday, Nov. 28, 2023. © AP

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Televisions were literally watching for the light at the end of the tunnel, while several official sources confirmed that rescue teams are a few meters away from the workers. A temporary hospital with 41 beds was deployed in the tunnel to examine them immediately. At the entrance to the collapsed tunnel, nicknamed "Ground Zero", horns are blaring, prayers are being said, and families are waiting for the miraculous with tears in their eyes, reports our correspondent in Bangalore, Como Bastin.

After a marathon operation, the Press Trust of India reported that a first trapped worker had been successfully evacuated. According to AFP journalists, several ambulances parked in front of the tunnel entrance later left the scene.

Their rescue is like a disaster movie scenario: the workers spent more than two weeks, in complete darkness with temperatures close to 0°C at night. A first horizontal tunnel to reach them had to be abandoned because of landslides. Then a vertical tunnel had to be finished by hand because the drills were stumbling into metal.

There has been criticism of the lack of safety on this site, but at the moment it is emotion that dominates. As well as gratitude and pride towards the rescue teams who achieved a feat.

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