Drones, dog squads used as rescuers face slush, debris at Uttarakhand tunnel
Drones and dog squads have been pressed into service to rescue some 35 people believed to be trapped inside a tunnel after a glacier burst in Uttarakhand on February 7 caused flash floods that left 32 dead and over 200 missing.
The clearing of slush is being done by army and Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) personnel while the state disaster response force (SDRF) is involved in searching for dead bodies and relief work in the affected villages in Sunday's tragedy.
Some 35 workers are trapped in the 1.7km long tunnel at the NTPC hydel power project in Tapovan, Chamoli district.
Till Wednesday evening, the rescue workers were able to clear up to 100m of the tunnel with the workers feared to be trapped at a distance of 250m inside the 1.7km long tunnel. After 100m, they are facing a huge amount of slush brought in by the flash floods.
Deputy director general, SDRF, Riddhim Aggarwal, who issued the permission for using drones and dog squads, said, "The drones are being used for thermal and laser scanning of the tunnel to get traces of the trapped workers.
"Apart from this, the helicopters are also being used for remote sensing so as to enable geographical mapping of the tunnel. This will not only clear the situation to much extent but also tell us about the amount of slush inside."
The rescue workers are facing the challenge of removing boulders and heavy slush brought in by the flash floods while trying to reach the trapped workers.
Navneet Bhullar, commandant SDRF, said, "There is very little progress in clearing the slush inside the tunnel as there are boulders.”
"It is almost impossible to clear them manually but only by the heavy excavation machines which are doing so. But there are limitations in the exercise, " said Bhullar, adding, "we are hopeful of reaching the trapped workers with our constant efforts."
After visiting the dam site on Tuesday evening, chief minister Trivendra Singh Rawat said that the rescue workers are now planning to get inside the tunnel using an alternate route.
"They are planning to drill the tunnel and get inside with the help of ropes because they are facing difficulty to clear the slush even after using heavy machinery," said Rawat.
Till Wednesday evening, the rescue workers recovered 34 bodies with about 170 missing. Out of the recovered bodies, 10 were identified. The number of missing people was also revised from 206 to 204 after two workers in the Rishi Ganga project were found safe at their respective homes.