Uttarkashi, November 28
As the trapped workers emerged from the Uttarkashi tunnel on Tuesday night, some with smiling faces and others looking grateful and exhausted at the end of the 17-day ordeal, the nation took a collective sigh of relief.
Anxious relatives who had been camping in the area were emotional as they were united with them after days of uncertainty.
Loud cheers and slogans erupted outside the tunnel as people greeted the ambulances that took the workers to community health centres while locals distributed streets. Back home, many said they will celebrate Diwali now as the shadow of despair that had fallen on the families disappeared.
“Finally, God heard us. My brother could be rescued. I am with him in an ambulance on the way to hospital,” Sunil, who was camping outside the tunnel in Uttarkashi, told PTI in a choked voice.
Sunil’s brother Anil was among the three youths from Kherabera in Jharkhand who were trapped in the tunnel.
“All are fine and healthy. I have spoken to a few of them,” said a rescue worker as media persons who have staked out at the site for over two weeks and others rushed to ask about the well-being of the rescued workers.
Uttarakhand Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami and Union minister V K Singh welcomed the 41 workers with garlands, shook hands and embraced them, while the rescue teams and officials clapped.
Back home, families of the workers, most of whom are from Jharkhand and Uttar Pradesh, were glued to television and their phones after the news emerged that the workers could be recused any time.
“It is a like a new birth from them,” said a relative of Dhiren and Benudhar in the Mayurbhanj district in Odisha.
In Khirabeda, villagers distributed ‘laddoos’ after the successful rescue. Rajendra, Sukhram and Anil, all in their early 20s, from the village, were among those trapped inside the tunnel for 17 days.
Sukhram’s sister Khushboo said that everyone in their village was celebrating.
According to Ram Kumar Bediya, a villager, a group of 13 people, all between 18 and 23, had left Khirabeda on November 1 to work at the tunnel.
When the disaster struck, three of them were working inside.
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