Updated

Rescuers in India pulled all 41 trapped tunnel construction workers to safety, ending their harrowing 17-day ordeal stuck beneath piles of mountainous rock and rubble.

India TV reports that all the workers trapped in the tunnel were plucked to safety as nightfall descended on the site.

Of the dramatic rescue, Union Minister Nitin Gadkari said, "I am extremely happy that the 41 workers trapped inside the Silkyara tunnel have been successfully rescued. All the agencies under the leadership of PMO [Prime Minister's Office] have worked day and night. I want to extend my best wishes to the workers who have been rescued. I also want to thank the workers who have helped in the rescue operation. A safety audit of the tunnel will also be done now[.]"

Video footage posted online shows the jubilant scenes where the exhausted workers gasped for their freedom for the first time in more than two weeks.

INDIAN TUNNEL RESCUE HALTED FOR DAYS AS DRILLING MACHINE BREAKS DOWN

The workers — who were trapped beneath a collapsed road tunnel in the Uttarkashi district of India's Uttarakhand after a portion of it collapsed during a Nov. 12 landslide — were pulled out via a 3-foot-wide diameter passageway made of welded pipes inserted through the rubble. 

The rescue brings a dramatic end to an operation fraught with setbacks and delays.

rescued Indian workers smiling

Some of the trapped Indian workers emerge from the rubble after being stuck for 17 days. (Government of India via X)

Rescuers previously struggled to cut through the rocky debris with heavy drilling machinery breaking down on numerous occasions. On Friday, a U.S.-made Auger machine broke down irreparably, and workers began manual drilling using hand-held drilling tools over the weekend as another drilling machine was set up in its place.

Rescuers successfully broke through to the workers Tuesday.

The Indian Air Force's Chinook helicopter, an enormous twin-rotor aircraft, reached the Uttarkashi district earlier and assisted in airlifting the trapped workers to the hospital, according to the BBC.

A nighttime shot of rescue personnel and officials gather at the entrance of the Silkyara tunnel in India during a rescue operation for trapped workers

Rescue personnel and officials gahter at the entrance of the Silkyara tunnel during a rescue operation for trapped workers after a section of the tunnel collapsed in the Uttarkashi district of India's Uttarakhand state on November 28, 2023. (Sajjad Hussain/AFP via Getty Images)

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Dozens of ambulances were also spotted outside the entrance to the tunnel, while locals and family members of the trapped workers gathered.

Shortly after the collapse, rescue personnel were able to establish contact with the workers and they were able to send them oxygen, food and water. More than a dozen doctors, including psychiatrists, were present at the accident site, monitoring their health.

Rescue workers lined up outside a tunnel in India where men are traped

Rescue personnel gather near the face of the collapsed Silkyara tunnel in India on Tuesday, November 28. Rescuers have broken through to the 41 construction workers who have been trapped in a tunnel for 14 days. (Sajjad Hussain/AFP via Getty Images)

A U.S.-made auger machine was also used to penetrate 195 feet horizontally through the mountainous terrain, but it broke down on Saturday and could not be repaired. 

A new machine was also set up at the site in order to drill vertically, but it is understood that the machine was not needed as the manual drilling proved successful.

Villagers and locals outside the India tunnel where men are trapped

Villagers and locals gather to look at the efforts by the operatives to rescue the 41 men trapped inside the collapsed Silkyara tunnel. Rescuers have broken through to the 41 construction workers who have been trapped in a tunnel for 14 days. (Sajjad Hussain/AFP via Getty Images)

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The mountainous topography has several Hindu temples that attract pilgrims and tourists.

The Indian government said an audit of the tunnel will now be carried out. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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