RAINI: A massive operation was launched on Monday to save 37 labourers trapped in a tunnel following a flash flood that devastated the Tapovan area in Uttarakhand’s Chamoli district a day earlier. So far, 20 bodies have been found and 202 are still missing. Armed forces and disaster response units are involved in rescue work. A team of scientists from Delhi reached the spot to find out the cause of the disaster.
Joint teams of Indo-Tibetan Border Police, Indian Army, National Disaster Response Force, State Disaster Response Force and others had a tough time making their way through a sea of mud and debris. They also recovered dismembered body parts. The missing include 188 labourers (mostly from eastern UP, Bihar and Jharkhand), 11 locals and two police personnel.
“We are doing everything we can to save them. We rescued 15 men trapped in the other end of this tunnel yesterday,” said Aparna Kumar, DIG of ITBP. The force of water was enormous and bodies were swept around 160 km downhill, to places like Srinagar (Uttarakhand), Rudraprayag, Kaleshwar and Karnprayag.
The rescuers have progressed about 100 metres into the 180-metre tunnel of the 520 MW power project on Dhauliganga that was swept away by the flood. The other unit damaged is the 13.2 MW project on Rishiganga. Both sites are still under heavy slush. Many workers and officials associated with them were on leave on Sunday, which minimised the loss of lives.
The state government has released Rs 20 crore for Chamoli district. Total monetary losses are estimated to be in the region of Rs 1,500 crore. The impact was such that the water level of Dhauliganga rose 80-100 ft above normal, engulfing the entire project and other structures, including the tunnel. “The debris is 20-30 feet high inside the tunnel which makes it difficult,” said Sanjay Kumar, deputy commandant of ITBP.