Uttarakhand tragedy: Death toll climbs to 53; rescue mission continues amid challenges

By: |
February 15, 2021 2:04 PM

Officials said over 150 people still remain missing after the February 7 devastation, possibly triggered by an avalanche in the upper reaches of the Alaknanda river system. A surge of water in Dhauliganga and Rishiganga rivers had ripped through two hydel projects.

Around 30 people, who were at work inside the tunnel when the flashflood occurred, are believed to be trapped inside the SFT at Tapovan.

Three more bodies were recovered on Monday from the flood-ravaged Tapovan tunnel, taking the toll in the glacial disaster in Uttarakhand to 53. The bodies were recovered this morning from the Adit tunnel at the NTPC’s Tapovan-Vishnugad project site, Chamoli District Magistrate, Swati S Bhadauria, told PTI.

“Rescue efforts are now underway at the Silt Flushing Tunnel (SFT) only with the help of excavators as a camera or a pipe cannot be inserted due to mounds of sludge and water choking it,” the district magistrate said.

The SFT at Tapovan where drilling was completed on Saturday night in the hope of inserting a camera to locate those believed to be trapped inside is also badly choked with slush and water, she said. Rescue or recovery is possible only with the help of excavators now, she said.

Officials said over 150 people still remain missing after the February 7 devastation, possibly triggered by an avalanche in the upper reaches of the Alaknanda river system. A surge of water in Dhauliganga and Rishiganga rivers had ripped through two hydel projects.

Asked about the chances of survival of those missing or trapped, the district magistrate said, “We must always try to be hopeful when the circumstances are adverse.”

Around 30 people, who were at work inside the tunnel when the flashflood occurred, are believed to be trapped inside the SFT at Tapovan.

The last rites of those pulled out dead after DNA sampling and other formalities have also been going on and compensation cheques are also being distributed among the next of kin of the deceased.

Families of those from outside Chamoli district killed in the tragedy are being paid compensation of Rs 4 lakh each through bankers cheques by the concerned district administration.

Over 500 ration kits carrying food-grains and essentials have already been distributed among residents of over a dozen villages that were cut off from the district headquarters following the disaster that struck a week ago.

Electricity supply has been restored in all affected villages except Pang where solar lanterns have been provided to residents for the time being, she said.

The agencies involved in the Tapovan rescue work include the Indo-Tibetan Border Police, the National Disaster Response Force and the State Disaster Response Force.

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