Indian rescuers on Tuesday safely retrieved all 41 workers from a collapsed Himalayan road tunnel after a 17-day operation to free them, a minister said.

All the workers rescued will have their health checked at a temporary medical camp set up inside the 13-meter (42.6 feet) wide tunnel.

“I am completely relieved and happy as 41 trapped laborers in the Silkyara Tunnel Collapse have been successfully rescued,” Minister of Road Transport Nitin Gadkari said in a statement. “This was a well-coordinated effort by multiple agencies, marking one of the most significant rescue operations in recent years.”

“We are extremely happy, no words can explain it,” Musarrat Jahan, the wife of one rescued worker Sabah Ahmad, told AFP by phone. “Not only my husband got a new life, we also got a new life. We will never forget it.”

Earlier on Tuesday, Indian officials announced that rescuers had begun extracting the workers trapped in the collapsed tunnel in the northern state of Uttarakhand after drilling through the debris.

One such instance occurred when a drilling machine broke after hitting a metal object, causing significant delay.

On Sunday, rescuers began constructing a vertical shaft using a new drill, requiring the removal of almost twice the amount of dirt and debris needed for a horizontal dig.

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