Meet hero Aussie who led miracle tunnel rescue in India

Aussie hero who saved 41 men trapped in a tunnel for more than a fortnight reveals his 12 prophetic words to their families… and how he ‘talked to the mountain’ to free them

  • Workers trapped in Indian tunnel freed
  • Aussie expert led the precarious mission
  • Knew likelihood of deaths but never gave up hope 
  • READ MORE: Workers trapped for 17 days emerge from collapsed tunnel

An Aussie tunnel expert has been hailed as an international hero after he led the miraculous rescue of dozens of workers trapped underground for 17 days.

Professor Arnold Dix travelled from Melbourne to lead the drawn-out rescue operations in Uttarkashi in India’s north after an under-construction road tunnel collapsed earlier this month.

All 41 workers were safely rescued from the rubble and greeted by the rescuers and their relieved families early Wednesday, sparking jubilant scenes broadcast around the world.

Professor Dix never gave up hope that all of the workers would come out alive, despite the likelihood of fatalities.

He revealed how he had asked the mountain to return the workers trapped inside and that he made a 12 word promise to their families. 

Professor Arnold Dix led the successful but risky rescue of 41 construction workers trapped in an underground tunnel

‘I said, “41 men are coming home safe and no-one will get hurt”,’ he told stunned Sunrise hosts Natalie Barr and Matt Shirvington.

‘But actually, my little inside voice was saying, “Exactly how are you going to do that Arnold?”‘

Professor Dix said he had ‘this feeling’ the rescue teams were ‘going to be able to do it’. 

He added that it was a miracle that all came out alive all thanks to a huge team of experts as he recalled how he got the call-up.

‘One way or another I found myself in a helicopter being whisked out like in a MASH movie into the Himalayas and was confronted with something I’d never seen before, which was mountain which had totally avalanched,’ he said.

‘There were millions of tonnes of rock inside a huge cavity in the mountain and 41 people were on the other side alive.’

The biggest challenge of the precarious rescue was the real likelihood that not everyone would come out alive.

‘You are starting knowing that everyone is alive and you know that if you make a wrong move, that changes,’ Professor Dix said.

Australian independent disaster investigator Arnold Dix (middle with officials) and his team faced a series of setbacks during the massive rescue mission

Ambulances drive past carrying workers rescued from the site of an under-construction road tunnel that collapsed in Silkyara in the northern Indian state of Uttarakhand, India (AP)

‘You’ve got a mountain where its middle has dropped out and more can come at any moment and we knew everything was unstable so we had advanced systems of measuring what is going on.

‘We could see the rock moving. An earthquake could have triggered the whole thing and it would be game over.’

He added the team of experts tried many things, which all failed, including the ‘biggest and toughest machine which blew up.’

The trapped workers survived on food and oxygen supplied through narrow steel pipes. 

Rescuers eventually reached the men using the thin pipe and moved through the tunnel 100mm at a time to not disturb the rocks.

‘We’ve had men down that pipe with their hands 100mm at a time and we would creep quietly towards the men because we knew if we did rattle the ground any more it would all chance and that would be it.’

A few days earlier, Arnold Dix offered a prayer before entering the site of the tunnel collapse

The Sunrise hosts hailed the rescue mission as a Christmas miracle. 

‘He’s just saved 41 lives and done it in a way that he said was once in a lifetime,’ Shirvington said. 

Professor Dix had been providing updates throughout the 17 day long ordeal.

He described the frustration of the rescue mission in an interview with a local news channel revealing how teams had to be careful with drilling through the rubble.

Professor Dix opened up on how he had asked the mountain for the safe return of the workers trapped underground. 

‘We as the people are saying, ‘Please, can you give us our children back? Mountain, can you please give us our children back?”,’ he said. 

There is widespread praise on social media, along with calls for a movie to be made about the mission.

‘Only Australian who gave us good news’ one Indian wrote in the wake of his country’s recent loss to Australia in World Cup cricket final.’

The trapped construction workers were greeted by locals, relatives and government officials who set off firecrackers and shouted ‘Bharat Mata ki Jai’ – Hindi for ‘Long live mother India’.

Officials hung floral garlands around the necks of the first rescued workers as the crowd cheered.

Workers were extracted one by one on a wheeled stretcher that was pulled through a roughly metre-wide tunnel of welded pipes that crews had pushed through the collapsed dirt and rocks.

Professor Arnold Dix was confident that all 41 construction workers would come out alive

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