1989 'Operation Raniganj' to 2018 Thai Cave Rescue: A look at heroic rescue missions that riveted world

    The Hawk
    November21/ 2023
    Last Updated:

    Unforgettable Rescues: Remembering Heroic Acts That Captivated Nations, from Thai Caves to Coal Mines and Borewells.

    Representative Image

    New Delhi: With the entire nation hooked on to their TV screens, watching with bated breath the ongoing rescue mission to evacuate 41 workers trapped inside the Silkyara tunnel in Uttarakhand's Uttarkashi since November 12, PTI looks at other such heroic rescue missions of the past that got the whole world talking.

    So, the globally talked about 2018 Thailand's textbook rescue operation of 12 footballers and their coach in a flooded Tham Luang cave or the historic 1989 rescue mission at the Mahabir Colliery, Raniganj (West Bengal) where the late Jaswant Gill-engineered innovative method successfully rescued 65 workers trapped in an inundated coal mine... the list runs deep.

    2018 Thai Cave Rescue: Arguably the "most talked about" rescue mission in recent years, the story of a Thai youth soccer team and their coach trapped in the Tham Luang Cave, prompting a global rescue effort, gripped the world.

    On June 23, 2018, 12 members of the Wild Boars soccer team and their coach were exploring the Tham Luang Nang Non cave complex in northern Thailand when a rainy season downpour flooded the tunnels, trapping all of them. After eight days of frantic search, two British divers located the boys -- aged between 11 and 16 -- and the coach alive.

    As water levels inside the cave continued to rise, the boys and their coach were evacuated successfully on July 10 -- more than two weeks after they were trapped -- from the cave one by one while sedated with the ketamine drug.

    The rescue mission reportedly involved more than 10,000 people, including 90 divers from different countries. Former Thai Navy SEAL Saman Kunan was the only casualty during the rescue operation.

    Numerous books, documentaries, movies -- including The Rescue, Thirteen Lives and Against The Elements -- have been made re-telling the story of one of the world's most complex and jaw-dropping rescue missions.

    1989 Raniganj Miners Rescue: Another prominent rescue mission, recently adapted into a movie, 'Mission Raniganj: The Great Bharat Rescue' starring actor Askshay Kumar, is an inspiring story of how the Coal India Limited mining engineer Jaswant Gill's ingenuity and leadership saved lives of 65 workers trapped in the Mahabir Colliery coal mine in 1989.

    As many as 232 miners were at work inside the coal mine when it got flooded due to a sudden influx of water on November 13, 1989.

    While 161 miners were rescued immediately, 65 workers were trapped inside. Six labourers lost their lives in the accident.

    A major rescue mission was launched and multiple teams were formed to save the trapped miners. Helming one of the teams, it was mining engineer Jasawant Gill who came up with the innovative idea of fabricating a steel capsule about 7-feet high and 22 inches in diameter and creating a new borehole to lower the capsule into the mine and taking out the miners, one by one.

    The steel capsule eventually helped the rescuers bring out the workers one by one after two days of vigorous operation.

    Gill, who also went into the capsule to rescue the miners, was honoured with the highest civilian bravery award 'Sarvottam Jeevan Raksha Padak' by the then President R Venkataraman in 1991.

    Prince's 2006 borewell accident: The visuals of anxious onlookers erupting in joy when the five-year-old Prince wrapped in a white sheet was brought to the surface is still fresh in the people's memory.

    This incident of July 2006, in which Prince fell in a 60-feet borewell at the Haldheri village in Haryana’s Kurukshetra district, hogged the headlines and captivated the nation's attention like no other borewell accident before.

    Luckily, the rescue team after several hours of rigorous attempts found another empty borewell of the same depth nearby.

    Eventually, iron pipes with a diameter of three feet were used to connect the two borewells, and Prince, after nearly 50 hours of struggle, was finally pulled out safely.

    2010 Chilean Miners Rescue: Another harrowing rescue mission that riveted the whole world was the 2010 Chile mine rescue of 33 workers following the collapse of San Jose gold and copper mine on August 5, 2010.

    After the collapse, the 33 men -- ranging in age from 19 to 63 -- moved to an underground emergency shelter area with the limited amount of food and water supply available. They were not able to communicate with emergency officials.

    On August 22, rescuers were able to drill a small hole from the surface down to the miners — trapped 2,000 feet below the surface. Following which the men sent up a note that translated in English to, "We are fine in the shelter, the 33 of us."

    This opened up communication and rescuers were able to send down food, water and medicine.

    On October 13, 69 days later, the globally televised rescue saw 33 miners escaping the tunnel, one-by-one, via a capsule painted in the colours of Chile's national flag.

    2002 Quecreek Miners Rescue: On July 24, 2002, less than a year after the September 11 terror attacks that horrified the world, people in the United States found themselves hooked to the TV watching nine miners from Quecreek Mining Inc. in Somerset County, Pennsylvania, trapped hundreds of feet below ground, their oxygen supply dwindling as the water rose around them.

    The miners were trapped in a four-foot-high chamber 240 feet below the surface after breaching a wall separating their mine from an older, flooded shaft.

    A lot of struggle and 77 hours later, on July 28, the rescue team successfully evacuated the trapped miners one-by-one in a 22-inch wide cage and wrote the script for another remarkable feat of underground rescue.