An SDRF personnel in a search and rescue operation in Chamoli(HT PHOTO)
An SDRF personnel in a search and rescue operation in Chamoli(HT PHOTO)

Amid rescue ops in Uttarakhand, identifying decomposed bodies a big challenge

  • Many of the bodies that were found in slush and in the Alaknanda river have decomposed badly.
PUBLISHED ON FEB 16, 2021 06:00 PM IST

Even as rescuers continue to recover bodies of those who died in the flash flood in Uttarakhand’s Chamoli on February 7, identifying many of them has now emerged as a major challenge.

The death toll now stands at 58 with 146 people still missing.

The rescue workers especially from the Uttarakhand state disaster response force (SDRF) are recovering bodies of the missing people in the disaster each day.

About 60-70 personnel of the state disaster response force (SDRF) are involved in the search for bodies. The personnel are braving deep slush and muddy waters to find the bodies in the Alaknanda river in districts of Chamoli, Tehri Garhwal, Pauri Garhwal and Rudraprayag.

Of the 58 bodies, 48 have been recovered from Chamoli district, seven from Rudraprayag, two from Pauri Garhwal and one from Tehri Garhwal districts. Eleven of the bodies were recovered from the 1.7km long tunnel at the NTPC’s Tapovan project in Chamoli where a search and rescue operation is still on.

Rescuers have been able to identify 31 of the 58 bodies recovered so far.

SDRF inspector Praveen Alok, said, "The SDRF personnel are working tirelessly to find the bodies in the disaster site as well as the Alaknanda river facing difficulties like heavy muck and muddy water."

"The two factors make it very difficult to spot bodies in a water body. The SDRF personnel are using binoculars to spot the bodies in the river and then drag them out from thick muck by walking into it. In some cases, they have to bring the body up to the road about one or one and a half km up," said Alok.

He said most of the bodies found in the river are "swollen or missing some body parts which make it difficult to identify them."

Rescuers are also finding severed limbs which are the most difficult to be identified. They have so far recovered at least 22 body parts from the Alaknanda river.

Neeru Garg, deputy inspector general, Garhwal who is one of the officials monitoring the rescue operation said, "The police are collecting the DNA samples of all the bodies and body parts being recovered from the river."

"As it is not easy to identify the bodies and body parts recovered, we are collecting their DNA samples to ascertain the identification. We are also collecting DNA samples of the family members of the missing people who have come to the disaster spot. DNA test is the ultimate and concrete way to ascertain the identification especially of the body parts," said Garg.

The state police have also made a WhatsApp group with family members of the missing person as its members to help the police to identify the bodies.

Nilesh Anand Bharne, deputy inspector general, (law & order) Uttarakhand police said, "We share the pictures of bodies focusing on their identity marks such as tattoos, jewellery or any other identity marks found with the bodies. It has helped us identify them."

Bharne said, "Rescue workers had so far cremated 53 bodies and 20 human body parts complete with rituals and respect till Monday evening. Police have also registered 52 cases related to the missing people."

“The rescue workers are working tirelessly to recover the remaining bodies. The family members can contact helpline numbers- 01372-251487 and 9084127503 for any queries or help,” he added.

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