Uttarakhand flood: Tapovan tunnel becomes focal point of rescue ops; 'signs of life' detected
The rescuers in Uttarakhand are racing against time to pull out over 30 people from a tunnel at the Tapovan-Vishnugad project. These people were trapped in the 12-ft-high and about 2.5-km-long 'head race tunnel' (HRT) after the water came rushing in following a glacier burst.
The tunnel has become the focal point of rescue operations.
Teams of the Army, Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP), National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), State Disaster Response Force (SDRF) and Uttarakhand Police are trying to clear the pathway of the tunnel so that these people can be taken out safely.
"Clearing of debris and slush continued the whole night. About 120 metres of the tunnel entrance stretch is now clear," ITBP spokesperson Vivek Kumar Pandey said in Delhi on Tuesday.
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Giving details about the ongoing rescue operation near the tunnel, Uttarakhand Police chief Ashok Kumar said that they are taking help of technology.
"A Hyderabad-based team has got a remote sensing device that can detect debris up to 500 metres deep in the ground. We are using the device with the help of a chopper," said Kumar.
"We can't estimate exact time to remove debris as there's 90-degrees turn in the tunnel. We've asked project engineers to make alternative entry to reach through. We'll attempt this today," he added.
The Director general of Police also ruled out that there is a decrease in the oxygen level. "I don't think there'll be insufficient oxygen and water as the tunnel is 2.5 kilometre long," said Kumar.
The missing people include those working at NTPC's 480 MW Tapovan-Vishnugad project and the 13.2 MW Rishiganga Hydel Project and villagers whose homes nearby were washed away.
"93 NTPC workers are missing, 39 are still stuck in the tunnel. We're trying to reach them. We are planning to install Early Warning System as a precautionary measure against an avalanche. Financial aid of ₹20 lakh will be given to deceased's family," Union power minister RK Singh said in Delhi today.
News agency PTI quoted a senior official as saying that the rescuers have not been able to make any contact with those stuck inside but are hopeful for "signs of life".
The ITBP and other rescuers are carrying tall wooden planks which are being used by rescuers to wade in through the slush and will later also help create a platform to pull out the trapped people using ropes.
The rescue teams are ready with dragon light sets, oxygen cylinders and stretchers to provide immediate medical help to those trapped inside.
Additional heavy machines could be pressed into service to expedite the process of clearing the tonnes of debris inside the tunnel, blocking the path of rescue personnel.
The teams have been working since Sunday to clear the tunnel and rescue the trapped.
Relief is also being distributed by helicopters among villagers cut off due to the washing away of a bridge in the avalanche at Malari.