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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.