As rescue operations are underway in the aftermath of the flash floods at Raini village in Tapovan area of Chamoli district in Uttarakhand, the state government on Wednesday said that at least 34 bodies have been recovered, while 206 people are still feared missing.
However, two employees of Rishi Ganga Power Corporation Ltd, were later located near their residence after they had gone missing following the environmental catastrophe.
According to the government officials, the rescue operation is on to evacuate about 25 to 35 people, who are currently trapped inside a tunnel in the Tapovan region.
The officials added that 100 State Disaster Response Force (SDRF), 176 National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), 425 Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) personnel, 124 Army personnel, four healthcare teams of Uttarakhand and 16 fire officials have been deployed in the flood-affected areas.
Chief Minister Trivendra Singh Rawat has been constantly monitoring the relief and rescue operations.
He said, “There is no shortage of daily essential commodities in the flood-hit areas, even as relief assistance is being provided to the kin of the deceased. Efforts are on to establish the identity of the bodies through collected DNA samples.”
At least 360 families from 13 villages in the border area were affected following the disruption in road links due to the catastrophe.
Except for Pang and Murada, which remained as the worst affected villages in Uttarakhand, power has been restored in all the remaining 11 villages. Drinking water lines have been repaired in 10 villages and work is underway in the remaining others.
The rescue work to find 25-35 trapped people was repeatedly disrupted, albeit briefly, at the disaster-hit Tapovan project area of Chamoli district in Uttarakhand on Thursday following increase in flow of Dhauliganga river and technical snags in drilling machines.
“The rescue work inside the tunnel resumed in the evening after a brief interruption due to increase of flow in Dhauliganga river,” said Navneet Bhullar, commandant of the SDRF, who is camping at the Tapovan site.
Earlier, the rescue workers had started drilling the tunnel vertically downward. But within hours, the drilling work was intermittently disrupted due to technical reasons. Few hours later, the flow of Dhauliganga started increasing, which in turn disrupted the rescue work.
As the flows subsided, the rescue work again resumed in the evening, said Bhullar.
Ever since the excavation and digging work began inside the tunnel, the rescuers had been working on multi-pronged strategies in their desperate bid to open the tunnel, which was blocked by the Sunday morning deluge.
The rescuers have also used remote sensing technologies for geographical mapping of the tunnel.
“We have used geographical mapping of the disaster-hit tunnel in the operation,” said Ridhim Agarwal, DIG, SDRF.
The rescue work had slowed down on Tuesday due to the presence of heavy silt inside the tunnel of the disaster-hit Tapovan hydel project in Chamoli district. DGP Ashok Kumar had stated that all possibilities will be explored to save the lives of the trapped people.
After days of digging and excavation works, jawans of the army, ITBP, NDRF and SDRF, who are engaged in the rescue works, had managed to open a sizeable portion of the tunnel. But the presence of heavy silt and sludge inside the tunnel slowed down the rescue work, top government officials admitted.
Rescuers also consulted NTPC officials to understand the complicated design of the tunnel.
However, there is still no contact with the trapped people inside.
The state government has stated that around 200 people are missing after the disaster, of which 34 bodies have been recovered so far.