Sharing details about the ordeal that followed the tunnel collapse, Dhiren Nayak, a resident of Baripada in Mayurbhanj district, said the thin water pipe served as the vital link for communication and dispatch of food items and other essentials. (Image By Arrangement)

Bhubaneswar: It was a tough struggle to hold on to their own mental strength and conviction in the tunnel that got completely cut-off from the outside world after a portion of caved on November 12 during the construction. But the 41 workers trapped in the Silkyara tunnel in Uttarkashi never lost their cool although they found that all roads to come out of the tunnel had closed for them.

The only hope was a narrow water pipe through which the workers informed their authorities about the mishap.

Sharing details about the ordeal that followed the tunnel collapse, Dhiren Nayak, a resident of Baripada in Mayurbhanj district, said the thin water pipe served as the vital link for communication and dispatch of food items and other essentials.

"We entered the tunnel for the night shift at 8 pm on November 11. When we finished the duty at around 5.45 am on November 12, we found the return path was clogged with slush and stone. For the first 18 hours, we faced inadequate presence of oxygen inside the tunnel. Things improved after the rescuers ensured oxygen supplies, besides food items and water," Nayak was quoted as saying to an Odia television channel over telephone from his hospital bed in Rishikesh.

Hailing from North Odisha where Murhi (puffed rice) is taken as staple food, Dhiren along with his friend Biseswar Nayak was carrying some quantity of that foodstuff on that fateful day.   

 "In the beginning, we survived on puffed rice and dry fruits. Later, the authorities sent dal, rice and chapati through a 6-inch pipe," said Dhiren.

 "We neither had phone communication nor the walkie-talkies worked. So, we opened the water line to convey the message to the outside that we are stuck inside and alive. Initially, we did not face any breathing problem because the tunnel was long and it had enough oxygen inside for us to breathe in the initial hours," Nayak added.

"I have been working there for more than three years. But never ever has such an accident occurred. I guess it was an unlucky day for us," said Nayak, adding, many of the workers spent time on their mobile phones to maintain mental peace.

Apart from Dhiren Nayak, there were four other workers from Odisha who were struck in the tunnel. They are Bisweswar Nayak from Baripada, Bhagwan Bhatra from Jharigaon, Raju Nayak from Kuldiha and Tapan Mondal from Chalis Chen village.

The families of the workers who were stuck in the collapsed tunnel for 400 hours since the night of Diwali rejoiced after their rescue on Tuesday as they celebrated with dance, music and firecrackers.

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