Uttarakhand tragedy: 5 more bodies recovered, death toll reaches 56
Among the five bodies, three were recovered from the 1.7 kilometre-long Tapovan tunnel at NTPC's hydel power project.
The rescue workers involved in the search and rescue operation recovered five more bodies till Monday evening taking the total death toll to 56 with 148 still missing. The rescuers have dug the main Tapovan tunnel up to 140 metres but are facing difficulties due to water percolation in the muck, making it more challenging to take it out.
Among the five bodies, three were recovered from the 1.7 kilometre-long Tapovan tunnel at NTPC's hydel power project where over 25 workers are feared trapped.
So far, nine bodies have been recovered from the tunnel where the rescue workers succeeded in recovering bodies for the first time on Sunday after starting the operation on the day of disaster on February 7.
Of the total 204 people missing, 139 are from the NTPC's hydel power project at Tapovan while 53 from the Rishi Ganga project. Both the projects got damaged in the February 7 disaster. About 12 villagers are also missing in the tragedy.
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State director general of police, Ashok Kumar, said, "Till Monday evening, the total bodies recovered are 56, including nine from the tunnel and the remaining from various other places."
"Out of the total bodies recovered, 29 have been identified while 27 are yet to be identified. The search and rescue operation is still on inside the tunnel where the workers have succeeded in clearing the muck up to 140 metres but are facing difficulty because the more they dig, the more muck comes from inside," he said.
Another team of rescue workers are clearing sludge from another small underground tunnel beneath the main tunnel where about 30 of the total 35 workers were feared to trapped.
The rescue workers had vertically drilled the required depth of 12.7 metres to reach the smaller underground tunnel on Friday. Apart from the tunnel, they are also clearing the muck from the Rishi Ganga dam and Raini village to find the missing people.
"Of the 56 bodies, about 46 were recovered from Chamoli district, seven from Rudraprayag, two from Pauri Garhwal and one from Tehri Garhwal districts," Nilesh Anand Bharne, deputy inspector general (law & order) said.
He said, "Apart from the bodies, the rescue workers also recovered 22 human body parts. DNA samples of all the body parts and dead bodies have been collected to ascertain their identities."
The police officer informed that the rescue workers have so far "cremated 53 bodies and 20 human body parts with complete rituals and respect. The rescue agencies have also video-graphed and photographed the jewellery, tattoo and other identity marks of the bodies found."
He also informed that the police at Joshimath police station has so far registered 53 cases regarding the missing people in the disaster.
"The rescue workers are working tirelessly to recover the remaining bodies. The family members can contact on helpline numbers- 01372-251487 and 9084127503 for any queries or help," said Bharne.
Earlier on Saturday night, the eight-member team of the SDRF which had gone on foot to gather information about the glacier lake about 8 kilometres above Raini village in Rishi Ganga also returned to Tapovan. The team had reached there on Friday after trekking for about 14 hours. They said that the 350-metre lake is posing no threat of any flash floods as enough water is continuously draining from there in the form of a stream.
The SDRF, which had gone there with seven labourers, also created a makeshift helipad near the glacial lake to enable a chopper landing, if needed.