No one critical: Uttarakhand CM Pushkar Dhami after 41 labourers rescued from tunnel

Uttarkashi (Uttarakhand): Uttarakhand Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami on Tuesday said none of the 41 labourers rescued from an under-construction road tunnel in Uttarkashi district was in a critical condition.

“All of them were healthy. They crawled out of the passage rather than being carried on stretchers,” Dhami told reporters soon after the evacuation of the labourers from the Silkyara tunnel.

He said the labourers, who were trapped in the tunnel for almost 17 days after a portion of the structure collapsed due to a landslide on November 12, will be kept under medical observation, before being sent home.

The agency they are working for and the National Highways and Infrastructure Development Corporation Limited (NHIDCL) have been asked to allow them to go home for 15-20 days, the chief minister added.

Dhami also said the evacuation began with the youngest of the labourers.

He thanked Prime Minister Narendra Modi for his constant support and motivation during the rescue operation.

The chief minister announced that Rs 1 lakh will be given to each of the 41 construction workers. He also said the Baukhnag temple at the mouth of the temple will be rebuilt and the tunnels under construction in the hill state reviewed. The Union government has decided to conduct a safety audit of the under-construction tunnels, Dhami said.

He said the American auger machine used in the rescue operation repeatedly hit hurdles and thanked the manual miners for accomplishing the mission.

“The manual miners played a big role in the rescue operation. International experts were consulted regarding the shortest route for the workers to come out,” he said.

Dhami especially thanked the manual workers from Gorakhpur in Uttar Pradesh and the Delhi Jal Board (DJB), who drilled through the final stretch of the rubble to get to the labourers.

Quoting the labourers with whom he spoke after their evacuation, the chief minister said they were uncertain about their fate for the first few days, but once communication was established with them and they got to know about the enormous rescue operation launched for their safety, they became sure about their evacuation.

The rescue workers pulled out all the 41 labourers trapped in the tunnel in a multi-agency operation that hovered between hope and despair for almost 17 days.

Union minister V K Singh and Dhami welcomed the workers as National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) personnel brought them out through a steel chute that lined a 60-metre passage.

An ambulance with the first of the 41 workers left the tunnel around 8 pm, about an hour after a group of experts in the rat-hole-mining technique dug through the last stretch of rubble.

Dhami said the prime minister took updates on the rescue operation twice daily.

“As the mukhya sevak of the state, he (Modi) had assigned me the task of safely evacuating all the trapped workers at any cost and assured me of all help in terms of resources,” he said.