‘Today is the real Diwali for us’, say workers rescued from Uttarkashi tunnel
Uttarakhand tunnel rescue: Diwali Day, November 12, is when these 41 workers got trapped inside the 4.5 km long tunnel at 5.30 a.m.
It was no less than a “miracle” for some of the trapped workers, who were rescued from the Silkyara-Barkot tunnel on Tuesday night, as they felt death was near in the dark tunnel many times.
As they came out of the 800-900 mm pipe tunnel pushed through the debris, there was jubilation all around and many of the trapped workers told their family members that it was like Diwali for them.
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Diwali Day, November 12, is when these 41 workers got trapped inside the 4.5 km long tunnel at 5.30 a.m. “Today is the real Diwali day for us,” said Chaudhary, father of Manjeet Lal of Lakhimpur Kheri, Uttar Pradesh after meeting his younger son after 17 days. He had spoken to his son twice when he was in tunnel.
“He is out finally…The mountain finally opened its lap today to let my son and others out. I have brought clothes for him, I want to see him in washed clothes," he said. Chaudhary had lost his elder son in 2022 in an accident at a construction site in Mumbai.
His son told him that the company of each other and constant morale boosting by Gabbar Singh Negi helped them to survive. “It was a dark place and we were not able to sleep in night. We were constantly talking to each other,” said Chaudhary quoting his son, as Manjeet was being taken to a community health center (CHC) in Chinyalisaur nearly 30 kilometres away, where they will undergo a thorough medical examination and will be kept under observation.
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Negi is a 51-year-old foreman has been telling the fellow workers not to lose their calm as rescue workers were on the mission to take them out. He had promised them that he would be last to come out of the tunnel. “He was last to come out. Even when he came out, he was smiling,” said his brother Jaimal Singh Negi, while travelling with him in the ambulance.
Jaimal of Kotdwar district in Uttarakhand had reached the tunnel on November 12 (Diwali day) evening after hearing that his brother was among those trapped in the tunnel. “My brother never lost hope and said it was not easy inside the tunnel,” he said, minutes before he entered the tunnel to receive his brother after 422 hours.
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"It's like a Diwali for us. I have been finally able to see him,” Negi said, in a choked voice. His brother Gabbar Singh Negi and 40 other trapped men will be able to see the sky despite all sorts of obstacles and challenges that the rescue operation witnessed. "I congratulate all those who were involved in the rescue operations," he said.
For the past 17 days, Jaimal Singh Negi spent most of his time outside the tunnel, staring at the entrance hoping for his brother to come out. "In the last 17 days, I spent of the time, day and night, outside the tunnel hoping for my brother to come out. Though the rescue got delayed, I didn't lose hope, he said.
Both Jaimal and Chaudhary said they don’t their family members to work in tunnels anymore.
As the rescue appeared imminent earlier in the day, families stationed in Silkyara were allowed inside the tunnel with their belongings – so that they could travel with their loved ones to the medical centre. Uttarkhand chief minister Pushkar Singh Dhami said that the evacuation began with youngest of workers and all of them were fit. “They crawled out of the passage on their own,” he said, after receiving the trapped workers at the mouth of the tunnel on Silkyara side.
Over the phone, Jharkhand’s Sunil, who was camping in Silkyara, thanked God for rescue of his brother Anil. “Finally, God heard us. My brother could be rescued. I am with him in an ambulance on the way to hospital," he said in a choked voice.
Moments after he came out of the tunnel, labourer Bisweswar Nayak of Odisha spoke to his wife Sukanti and mother over video call waving at them. “I am all fine. I am now going to hospital and would speak to you tomorrow morning,” he said, as his wife and mother heaved a sigh of relief. Among the five from Odisha who were trapped, Bisweswar, 38, from Jogibandh village in Mayurbhanj district, has been working as a labourer in tunnel construction for 22 years.
Father twin daughters aged six, Bisweswar joined work four months ago along with a few others from his locality. In Kuldiha village of Mayurbhanj district, 25-year-old Raju Nayak's grandmother broke down after seeing her grandson on a video call. “Once he comes back home, I would not allow him to go anywhere. We had stopped cooking ever since he was trapped. I want to see him as soon as possible," she said.
Odisha chief minister Naveen Patnaik and West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee had stationed officials in Silkyara to bring back the rescued workers. Odisha labour minister Sarada Nayak who is camping there would bring all the five labourers back to Odisha with him. West Bengal resident commissioner in Delhi has been sent there to bring the workers to their homes, Banerjee tweeted on Tuesday afternoon.
(With PTI inputs)
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