Anil Bediya, one of the 41 labourers who were rescued from a collapsed Uttarakhand tunnel after 17 days, survived the ordeal by eating 'muri' (puffed rice) and licking water dripping from rocks.
The 22-year-old worker hailing from Jharkhand had a close brush with death after a portion of the Silkyara tunnel on the Brahmakhal-Yamunotri national highway in Uttarakhand collapsed early on November 12.
"Loud shrieks punctuated the air...We all thought we would be buried inside the tunnel and had lost all hope during the first couple of days," Bediya told PTI over the phone from Uttarakhand on Wednesday morning while narrating their harrowing tale.
"It was a nightmarish ordeal...we licked water dripping from rocks to quench our thirst and survived on muri for the first 10 days," Bediya, who is now recuperating at a Uttarakhand hospital, said.
Bediya hails from Khirabeda, a village on the outskirts of Ranchi which saw a total of 13 people going to Uttarkashi on November 1 in search of greener pastures.
Little did they know what fate had in store for them.
Luckily, only three of the 13 from Khirabeda were inside the tunnel when the disaster struck. Fifteen of the 41 workers hail from Jharkahnd's Ranchi, Giridih, Khunti and West Singhbhum, where people have erupted in joy after the trapped workers were rescued on Tuesday evening.
"Our first hope of survival kindled when the authorities established contact with us after nearly 70 hours," Bediya recounted.
According to him, two of their supervisors asked them to drink water dripping through the rocks.
"We had no other option but to relieve ourselves inside the tunnel. Finally, when we heard voices of people communicating with us from outside, a firm belief and hope of survival replaced our desperation," Bediya said.
After the first 10 days of gruelling anxiety, supplies, including fruits like bananas, apples and oranges, besides hot meals like rice, dal and chapatis became regular along with water bottles, he said.
"Huddled together, we used to pray desperately for early rescue ...finally God heard us," he said.
His anxiety-stricken mother had not cooked food for the last two weeks, and the family survived on whatever their neighbours provided them with, a resident of the village said.
In Khirabeda, a paralysed Shravan Bediya, 55, whose only son Rajendra was trapped in the Uttarakhand tunnel, was seen celebrating in a wheelchair after the workers were rescued on Tuesday evening.
Besides 22-year-old Rajendra, two others from the village -- Sukhram and Anil, both in their early 20s -- were trapped inside the tunnel for 17 days.
Sukhram's paralysed mother Parvati, who was inconsolable since she found out about the disaster, was too happy to express her feelings.
The rescue operation began on November 12 after a portion of the under-construction tunnel on Uttarakhand's Char Dham route collapsed following a landslide, cutting off the exit for the workers inside.
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