The rescue of 41 tunnel workers by India's 'rat-hole' miners.

He was part of a group that manually cleared the final debris to rescue 41 workers trapped in the under-construction Silkyara tunnel for over 16 days. The tunnel, part of the flagship Char Dham project connecting Hindu pilgrim sites, collapsed due to a landslide on November 12.

The rescue of 41 tunnel workers by India's 'rat-hole' miners.
The rescue of 41 tunnel workers by India’s ‘rat-hole’ miners.

Described as a “rat-hole” miner, Firoz Qureshi and his team entered the 800m pipe, clearing the 12m debris in under 18 hours. Though labeled as “rat-hole” miners, engineers in Uttarakhand consider them manual excavators who entered tight spaces for cleaning and repairs. The Supreme Court banned “rat-hole” mining in 2014, but it persists illegally in Meghalaya. The rescue involved skilled tunnelling mechanics and manual excavators, including when the auger drilling machine faced challenges. The final manual operation, involving helmeted men with spades and wheeled trolleys, cleared the last 12m stretch, completing the operation in under 24 hours. The manual excavators, often among the poorest and untrained individuals, earned praise for their bravery and resourcefulness.

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