Rescue teams on Tuesday managed to successfully remove the 41 workers who were trapped 17 days ago in a tunnel under construction in northern India, sparking celebrations among relieved relatives and authorities.

“I feel completely relieved and happy as 41 workers trapped in the Silkyara tunnel collapse have been successfully rescued,” Road Transport and Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari said on social media site X.

The workers were received one by one by the triumphant rescue teams and some relatives, Delhi television NDTV showed live, while at the exit of the tunnel some of those gathered passed boxes of ‘laddu’, spherical sweets sometimes served festive.

“This was a well-coordinated multi-agency effort, marking one of the largest rescue operations in recent years. Various departments and agencies complemented each other despite facing numerous challenges,” Gadkari added.

The workers were trapped in the early hours of November 12 when a section of a tunnel under construction in the northern state of Uttarakhand collapsed, leaving them separated from the entrance by a blanket of rubble nearly 60 meters thick.

Since then, and after more than two weeks of drilling, carried out mainly by a tunnel boring machine that broke down last Friday, the last section of the excavation to rescue them was carried out by three teams of rathole miners, specialized in making their way into tunnels. narrow, despite the risk it entails.

Up to 41 ambulances are now waiting outside the tunnel, first transporting people to a makeshift hospital at the accident site, before taking them to the district hospital with the help of military helicopters.

The workers are expected to be very weakened even though they have received food, water and medicine, as well as oxygen, since the day of the collapse thanks to a narrow pipe that connected their cavity with the entrance and survived the collapse.

The rescue of the workers, which has lasted for more than 400 hours (almost 17 days), has experienced numerous setbacks since its beginning that significantly delayed the period expected by the authorities to get them out alive, after small collapses, metal obstacles that prevented drilling, or breakdowns in tunnel boring machines.

“Patience, hard work and faith won,” summarized the head of the government of the northern state of Uttarakhand, Pushkar Singh Dhami, on the social network X.