UTTARKASHI, India (Diya TV) — 41 workers who endured a harrowing 17-day ordeal in a collapsed Himalayan tunnel were joyously rescued on Tuesday, concluding a remarkable operation that involved drilling through rock and debris. The workers, facing setbacks during the rescue mission, emerged healthy to cheers as they crawled out of the tunnel.

Amid jubilant scenes, Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami of Uttarakhand state personally welcomed the workers, expressing relief at their well-being during a press conference held on Tuesday night. The workers, all in good health, chose to crawl out on their own accord. Dhami, acknowledging the extraordinary efforts of workers, engineers, and government departments, commended their collective determination and humanity.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi lauded the successful rescue, describing it as an emotionally charged moment. He praised the trapped workers for their bravery and patience, highlighting the exceptional teamwork that characterized the rescue operation.

The rescued workers, predominantly migrant laborers, will each receive checks worth 100,000 rupees ($1,200), according to Dhami. Additionally, a request has been made to the company to allow these workers to spend quality time with their families.

The rescue mission faced various challenges, including technical glitches and equipment breakdowns. Despite setbacks, the recovery teams persevered, manually drilling the final two meters. The men, trapped since November 12, were constructing a part of India’s Char Dham Highway route when the tunnel collapse occurred.

The tunnel, integral to Prime Minister Modi’s ambitious project to upgrade the country’s transport network, has sparked controversy due to concerns about its impact on the fragile Himalayan terrain. As rescuers successfully pulled the workers to safety, the operation, initially expected to take a few days, extended into weeks, maintaining the attention of the nation.

The emotional scenes unfolded as the first worker was presented with a garland by Chief Minister Dhami, symbolizing the end of a challenging ordeal. The successful operation, termed one of the most significant rescue missions in recent years by Minister Nitin Gadkari, showcased the power of coordinated efforts from multiple agencies to pull the workers through this passageway made of welded pipes.