It was around 3:50 pm on Monday when a National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) personnel reached Satish Tomar and Mani Ram, the two workers of the Himalayan Construction Company who were trapped in an under-construction tunnel of Kiratpur-Nerchowk four-lane project for over a week.
NDRF personnel Ashok Kumar was unknown to the duo, but was nothing short of a guardian angel when he entered the tunnel to rescue them after a close to 200-hour ordeal.
“I can’t explain their feelings when they saw me inside the tunnel. Warm hugs and gratitude was the instant reaction,” said Ashok, who hails from Sikar district of Rajasthan.
I found them, Ashok said, waiting at a safe place near the wall. “There was knee-deep water inside the tunnel,” he added.
As Mani Ram seemed a little flustered, Ashok decided to send him out first. “Mani was a bit anxious and afraid. So, I decided to send him out first,” said Ashok, while celebrating with his team.
“It was a different kind of experience. We have never done something like this before,” he said. As Ashok emerged out of the tunnel, the rescuers lifted him on his shoulders while locals gathered at the site gave him a round of applause.
He rejected the doctor’s advice to undergo a medical checkup. “Oh, there is nothing like that. I am fit and fine and trained for such kind of a job,” he said politely and resumed celebrations while officials appreciated and congratulated him for success of the operation.
Mani Ram who was the first to be pulled out through a vertical rescue shaft dug over five days of drilling, moments after coming out, sought his co-worker to recharge his phone so that he could talk to his family. “I just want to talk to my family. Please recharge my phone,” Ram told his co-worker Kartar Singh who was at the rescue site, keenly observing every step of the rescue operation.
The administration didn’t let anyone talk to the rescued workers as they were rushed to the Zonal Hospital in Bilaspur.