After 17 days trapped in tunnel, 41 Indian workers saved aliv


Silkyara Tunnel , India, Nov. 30: After 17 days trapped inside a collapsed Himalayan road tunnel they were building, Indian workers described the horror of their ordeal, and the hopes and prayers that kept them strong. “We were really scared, every moment felt that death was standing nearby,” rescued worker Deepak Kumar told AFP on Wednesday.

“We were not sure whether our lives would be saved or not.” The men were welcomed as heroes after being hauled through 57 metres of steel pipe on stretchers specially fitted with wheels late Tuesday, the culmination of a marathon engineering operation. Draped in garlands of orange marigolds, they were greeted with wild cheers.

“The world is again beautiful for us,” rescued worker Sabah Ahmad told AFP, describing the heartache of hearing his wife’s “worried and hopeless” voice while he was trapped.

“I know it was a difficult moment for those inside and more difficult for families outside,” said Ahmad, who comes from Bihar, one of India’s poorest states.

“But at last we have come out, and it is the only thing that matters.”

His wife Musarrat Jahan, speaking to AFP by phone from Bihar, said that “no words” could explain how happy she felt.

“Not only my husband got a new life, we also got a new life,” she said. “We will never forget it”. – ‘Lost hope’ – Previous hopes of reaching the men were repeatedly dashed by falling debris and the breakdown of multiple drilling machines, and the men spoke of how hard it had been to keep their spirits up. “It was not easy,” Kumar said. ”

After three or four days inside the collapsed tunnel, and the rescue team had failed to reach us, the reality is that our confidence and faith were at a low level.”

Most of the trapped men are migrant workers who left home to find employment, working on the Silkyara tunnel in northern Uttarakhand state, hundreds of kilometres from home high up in the bitterly cold Himalayan foothills. Rescue teams later set up a telephone exchange to allow families far from the site to call in.

“I told my family, ‘I am fine and healthy, do not worry, everything will be all right, we will come out soon'”, Kumar said. “But while I was saying these words to them, sometimes I felt strongly that I will never be able to see my parents.”

Guriya Devi, wife of rescued worker Sushil Kumar, told AFP that the family had “passed through horrible times, and sometimes we lost hope”. (AFP)The Rising Nepal