5 Rescued Workers May Return To Odisha Tomorrow; Talk About Staying Positive With Morning Strolls & Downloaded Movies

Bhubaneswar: The five workers from Odisha, among 41 rescued from an under-construction tunnel in Uttarakhand following a gruelling operation that lasted for over two weeks, are likely to return to home state on Thursday.

It was no less than a “miracle” for the five Odia labourers – Dhiren Nayak of Badakudar and Bisweswar Nayak of Jogibandh in Mayurbhanj, Raju Nayak of Kuldiha in Balasore, Bhagaban Bhotra of Nabarangpur and Tapan Mandal of Bhadrak district – as they felt death was near in the dark tunnel many times in the last 17 days.

All 41 survived the disaster with few injuries, and emerged from the tunnel on Tuesday evening with big smiles. They are currently under observation at Chinyalisaur Community Health Centre and will flown to AIIMS Rishikesh for further medical examination.

Speaking to local channels, Bisweswar and Dhiren described how hopes and prayers kept them strong during the 17-day ordeal. They went inside the tunnel at 8 pm on December 11 night. “The next day was Diwali holiday so we wanted to finish the work early and leave the tunnel,” said Dhiren.

However, they found their way out blocked by debris following a landslide at around 5.30 am on the day of Diwali (November 12). Soon, arrangements were made to supply oxygen, electricity and eatables to the trapped labourers through air-compressed pipes as multiple agencies, including the NDRF, SDRF, BRO, project executing agency NHIDCL and ITBP, began rescue efforts.

“We were struck by fear when fresh rubble kept falling from above and debris that had accumulated in an area of around 30 metres spread to 60 metres. But it lasted for only 4 hours,” said Bisweswar.

He said that they initially survived with popcorn, dry fruits and puffed rice. On the 11th day, fresh fruits, vegetarian pulao, roti and sabzi, along with essential supplies, including fresh underclothes, T-shirts, towels, soaps, toothpaste, and toothbrushes, were delivered to them through a six-inch supply pipe inserted through the rubble. A modified communication system with wire connectivity also improved interaction between the workers and rescue teams, providing the much-needed reassurance.

A landline facility was also set up at the Silkyara tunnel in Uttarkashi to help the 41 trapped workers connect with their family members.

Bisweswar further said that they began their day with a 2-km stroll inside the tunnel followed by breakfast around 10 am. “We could also speak to our family back home and killed time watching movies which some workers had downloaded on their mobile phones,” he added.

Dhiren said he had been working there for more than three years, but had never witnessed such an accident. “I guess it was an unlucky day for us,” he said.

Also Read: Odisha CM, Labour Minister Express Relief; Celebration In Villages Of 5 Workers Rescued From Uttarakhand Tunnel

Their families back home erupted with joy as they emerged fit and fine from the tunnel last evening and celebrated the moment with dance, music and firecrackers. Huge parties are also being planned in their respective villages to welcome them back home, sources said.

Earlier speaking to media, state Labour Minister Sarada Nayak, who had been camping at the tunnel site since last week, said they would wait till they are discharged from the hospital and bring them back home. The local officials also took the family members of the 5 Odia workers in separate vehicles to the hospital. “On seeing me, he smiled and said that he was fine,” said Bimal, brother of Bisweswar.

The state government had facilitated their travel, food and accommodation of the families of the five workers there.

According to official reports, around 18 to 22 workers from Odisha were employed for the work directly by the Navayuga company and through contractors. With uncertainty looming over the tunnel work for the time being, team of Labour department officials, stationed in the labourers’ colony at the site, is coordinating with those willing to return to Odisha, the sources added.


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