Uttarakhand disaster: Challenges, progress during rescue operation
More than a week after the flash floods hit Uttarakhand’s Chamoli district, rescuers have been pulling out bodies from the muck-filled power project tunnel even as authorities are looking for the missing people. The death toll on Tuesday rose to 58, out of which 11 bodies have been recovered from a tunnel of NTPC's Tapovan-Vishnugad hydropower plant.
On February 7, a glacier burst in the Tapovan-Raini area in Chamoli, triggering massive flooding in the Dhauliganga and Alaknanda rivers. Hundreds of people went missing after the floods and many houses were damaged along with the Tapovan-Vishnugad hydropower plant and the under-construction Rishiganga Hydel Project.
All the 11 bodies retrieved from the 1.7 kilometre-long Tapovan tunnel till now have been identified, news agency ANI reported citing deputy inspector general of State Disaster Response Fund (SDRF) Ridhim Aggarwal on Tuesday. Officials have said 146 people are still missing.
Multiple teams of SDRF, National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) and other agencies are carrying out search operations at Raini village and its nearby areas. Dog squads are also at the spot looking for missing people.
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More than 300 personnel joined the operation on Tuesday as authorities stepped up the rescue operation. The list of personnel who are joining the operation includes engineers, officers, geologists, scientists, security personnel from NTPC, Tehri Hydro Development Corporation Limited (THDC), Central Industrial Security Force (CISF), Uttarakhand Purvsanik Kalyan Limited (UPNL) and others, ANI had reported.
The rescuers have dug the main Tapovan tunnel up to 140 metres but are facing difficulties due to water percolation in the muck which has made the rescue operation more challenging. SDRF has also put an alarm system to detect the rise in the level of water. It will also alert the authorities in case the water level rises. "Tonnes of the debris is stuck inside the tunnel. There is a limitation to the amount of work that can be done," PK Tiwari, the commandant of NDRF, had said.
"Bodies are being recovered with caution so as to return them to their family members," Ujjwal Bhattacharya, NTPC’s hydropower project director, had earlier said, according to ANI.