Rescue operation at a tunnel in Uttarakhand’s Tapovan – where more than 30 people are thought to be trapped for more than three days — has been temporarily halted as several rivers in the area have surged again days after Sunday’s flash-floods. Orders have been given to vacate the areas downstream, officials have said.
More than 200 people went missing after flash floods in Chamoli district on Sunday, believed to be brought on by a glacier burst at Nanda Devi. Two power plants and five bridges were washed away in the torrent of water that surged downstream on Alakananda and Dhauliganga rivers towards mid-morning. So far, 32 bodies have been recovered, some from as far as 45 km away.
Time has been running out for the 37 people believed to be trapped in the tunnel near a severely damaged hydroelectric plant that was under construction at Tapovan. The rescue work has been on for three days — the pace of the work has been slow because of the mud and sludge inside the U-shaped tunnel.
The authorities have moved in heavy earthmovers and other equipment to remove the mud.
After the alert was sounded today, security personnel working inside the tunnel rushed out and the heavy machines engaged in drilling through the debris and sludge were taken to safety.
“We had reached distance of 6 meters and then realised that the water is coming there. Had we continued, there would’ve been issues as rocks are unstable, excavator would’ve fallen. So we’ve suspended drilling operation for time being,” Ujjwal Bhattacharya, the Project Director of National Thermal Power Corporation was quoted as saying by news agency ANI.