20231126 india tunnel
Rescue personnel work at the mouth of the collapsed under construction Silkyara tunnel in the Uttarkashi district of India's Uttarakhand state. Image Credit: AFP

New Delhi: Construction has resumed on an Indian tunnel that collapsed last year, trapping 41 workers for 17 days - with at least one of those men back on the job, reports Tuesday said.

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Manik Talukdar, a worker from Bengal who was among those trapped in the under-construction Silkyara road tunnel, told the Times of India he was "on my way back" to his underground job.

"It was a fateful thing, but that doesn't mean we should stop working out of fear," he told the paper.

Most of the trapped men were migrant workers who travelled hundreds of kilometres from home to work on the tunnel in northern Uttarakhand state, high in the bitterly cold Himalayan foothills.

The men survived in the tunnel following the November 12 collapse with the help of a narrow tube through which air, food and water were delivered as they waited.

But Talukdar shrugged off fears of another collapse. "We are aware of the risks involved in our job," he said.

After repeated setbacks in the rescue operation, including falling debris, fears of further cave-ins and drilling machine breakdowns, military engineers and skilled miners dug the final section by hand using a so-called rat-hole technique.

A three-person team worked at the rock face inside a metal pipe wide enough for just one man, with the rescuer in front digging and handing material to the person behind him.

The highways ministry gave permission last week for work to resume, nearly two months after the collapse.