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Uttarakhand avalanche | Rescue efforts resume in Tapovan dam tunnel

Members of a rescue team work inside a tunnel after a part of a glacier broke away in Tapovan, in the northern state of Uttarakhand on Thursday, February 11, 2021.   | Photo Credit: REUTERS

The rescue operation at the Tapovan hydel project tunnel in Uttarakhand’s Chamoli district, where about 35 workers were trapped after a snow avalanche triggered flash floods on Sunday, continued on Thursday. There was, however, a brief halt due to reports of an increase in the water level of the Dhauli Ganga river.

 

“The joint team has now resumed work inside the tunnel. Earlier, following information about a rise in the water level, we had taken some precautionary measures for about an hour,” said an official.

Union Home Secretary Ajay Kumar Bhalla chaired a meeting to review the progress of the rescue and relief work. “Secretary, Defence Research and Development Organisation, has been asked to depute experts for analysis of the situation and for taking appropriate remedial measures in coordination with Central and State agencies,” said a Ministry statement.

Drilling operation

In the early hours of Thursday, the team started a drilling operation to peep into an interlinked silt tunnel, in the hope of establishing contact with the trapped workers.

 

The joint team had been clearing sludge and debris from the main project tunnel for the past four days, but was not able to reach the T-junction where workers are suspected to be trapped. NTPC officials later told the agencies that there was another tunnel about 12 metre underneath, from where the workers might be located.

“If the silt channel is intact and clear, an alternative access route can be created to reach the trapped workers. It is becoming more difficult to remove the sludge and debris from the main tunnel, over 60-metre stretch still remains to be cleared even after four days of round the clock work,” said a senior National Disaster Response Force official.

The drilling operation was initiated early on Thursday. However, it had to be stopped after the driller hit a hard rock around 8-metre depth. More sophisticated equipment was being arranged for the purpose. Using machines, the rescue teams have been removing the slush again as before. “The sludge has solidified a little, making the job easier,” said an Indo-Tibetan Border Police official. Drone experts have also been roped in to help in locating the workers.

Death toll up to 36

The death toll in the disaster has gone up to 36.

“A total of 36 bodies have been recovered from different places so far, including two this afternoon. Identities of 10 deceased have been determined. Families of 138 missing persons have contacted us as of now. We have created a WhatsApp group for sharing key information, including identification marks. We have also allowed people to file ‘missing person’ report at any nearby police station. DNA sampling is being done,” said Deputy Inspector General of Police (Law and Order) Nilesh Anand Bharne.

 

Letters had been sent to various States seeking information on those missing and for the identification of bodies. Sonar scanners were being used during the search operations in inundated areas.

Among the missing persons, 70 are from Uttarakhand, 66 from Uttar Pradesh, 13 from Jharkhand, 11 from Nepal, nine each from Bihar and Himachal Pradesh, six each from Punjab and West Bengal, four from Madhya Pradesh, three from Assam, two each from Delhi and Odisha and one each from Haryana and J&K.

While relief operations in the 13 affected villages are under way, power supply has been restored in 11 of them. The damaged water supply lines have also been repaired in 10 of the 11 affected villages.

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Printable version | Apr 19, 2021 4:04:38 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/uttarakhand-avalanche-drilling-operation-launched-at-tapovan-tunnel-to-rescue-trapped-workers/article33808056.ece

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