Chamoli disaster: Many people found in Tapovan tunnel were alive till Feb 13, says official

A total of 11 bodies have been recovered from the Tapovan tunnel out of which two were recovered on Tuesday. 
Rescue operation underway at Tapovan tunnel in Joshimath, Uttrakhand on Tuesday. (Photo | Special arrangement)
Rescue operation underway at Tapovan tunnel in Joshimath, Uttrakhand on Tuesday. (Photo | Special arrangement)

DEHRADUN: After MS Khati, additional chief medical officer of Chamoli district said that those found from the tunnel must have been alive for 4-5 days, the state government officials issued a clarification on Tuesday evening.  

MS Khati, the ACMO earlier in the day had said, "Most people found in the tunnel died 2-3 days after the flash floods. The post-mortem reports indicate that they died 4-5 days back. Many of died on February 12-13."

A total of 11 bodies have been recovered from the Tapovan tunnel out of which two were recovered on Tuesday. 

Dr GS Rana, chief medical officer of Chamoli district who featured in the clarification video on the matter, said, "The Post-mortem of all 58 bodies has been conducted following the norms. These people died of trauma due to multiple reasons including injuires, filling of sludge, muck, sand and water in their lungs. I have been conducting the PMs myself and supervising the teams doing so. After going through every single PM report I have to say that with such injuries and in such conditions they would not have been alive for more than 30 minutes."

Rana also added in the video that the ACMO was not pary of the post-mortem teams nor he was authorized to comment in the matter. 

Apparently, ACMO's statement affirms allegations by the locals whose family members are missing. 

The local residents whose family members are said to be trapped in the tunnel have alleged that the NTPC Limited officials are not being able to supervise the rescue efficiently in the early days of the disaster. 

TNIE had earlier reported that how two senior officials at the forefront of the operations have confirmed that they got layout of the tunnel only on February 9 which hampered the rescue efforts for the first two days- Feb 7, and 8.

A senior official had told TNIE on the condition of anonymity, "First two days we were blind!"

Local residents lashed out on the NTPC. "Now it has been proved that we were right about the irresponsible attitude of the NTPC. They did not do enough to save our family members," said Suraj Rao one of the protesters at the rescue site at Tapovan Hydro Power which took place on February 12. 

The locals had also raised slogans- NTPC Murdabad and warned that no political leader should come to the spot anymore.

Till date, apart from 58 bodies, 23 body parts have been recovered from various spots after February 7 flashfloods while 146 are still missing. 

Severed limbs, heads, chunk of flesh amidst deposition of muck and waters of Rishi Ganga, Dhauli Ganga, Alaknanda, tributaries, rivulets and various other spots are being recovered by the multi-agency rescue team.

Navneet Bhullar, Commandant, Uttarakhand State Disaster Response Force who is on ground supervising the teams said, "It is a harrowing sight. The bodies which are found are decomposed, disfigured so the family members and relatives are identifying them by articles wore by them- watches, jewellery, belts and even clothing in some cases."

Majority of the body parts of total of 23 include severed limbs. Out of these only one belonging to Vicky Kumar from Saharanpur was identified by his brother. 

To date, a total of 53 bodies and 20 body parts have been disposed off with suitable last rites and rituals. The police have also registered 52 cases related to the missing people.

Apart from forming a Whatsapp group to relay and gather the information from the family members of the missing, the police have issued helpline numbers for the families- 01372-251487 and 9084127503. 

For the majority of the family members of the missing, only hope is the DNA test results.

Om Prakash, chief secretary of Uttarakhand said commenting on the formation of the artificial lake on Rishi Ganga river, 8kms upstream , from Raini village, said, "The lake is stable and it is draining which is good. We will try to drain it fully to minimise the threat. There is also a proposal to establish a glacial monitoring institute to monitor the glaciers."

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