Authorities pulled out two bodies from Uttarakhand’s Tapovan tunnel during the wee hours of Sunday. At the moment, 30 people are still trapped in the tunnel, officials said.
The 30 persons have been trapped there since February 7, when an avalanche burst at Uttarakhand’s Chamoli district, causing flash floods in the area. They were working at the Tapovan-Vishnugad hydel project at the time of the incident.
The recent recoveries of the two bodies take the toll in the disaster to 40 with 38 bodies recovered over the past week from downstream areas near Dhauli Ganga river.
One of the bodies has been identified as that of a man from Narendra Nagar in Tehri district, Chamoli District Magistrate, Swati S Bhadauria, said.
Rescue teams have been racing against time to free those trapped in the tunnel.
Rescuers had said on Saturday that they were still hopeful of finding survivors, notwithstanding the numerous challenges like the muck and the water from Dhauli Ganga constantly flowing into the tunnels. The river had deviated from its path after the flash floods, leaving 166 missing.
Meanwhile, officials at the State Emergency Operation Centre in Dehradun have said that scientists of the Indian Institute of Remote Sensing during an aerial survey of the Rishi Ganga found that the glacial lake formed due to the avalanche over it has begun to release water, which reduces chances of it breaching or causing a fresh flash flood during the rescue operations. The lake is at the confluence of Raunthi Gad and Rishi Ganga.
According to Central Water Commission (CWC) chairman Saumitra Haldar, it is 400 metres in length, 25 metres wide and 60 metres deep.
The CWC is examining possibilities of what can be done if the water rises to a "critical" level. It is conducting simulation studies and also examining the possibility of carrying out a controlled blast to drain out the water.
P K Tiwari, Commandant of the National Disaster Response Force, had said that based on their experience, they are optimistic about saving lives and mentioned the possible presence of air ducts and gaps in the tunnel.
So far, 20 bodies and 12 human limbs have been cremated after DNA sampling, the DM said.
A compensation of Rs 4 lakh each was also paid to the kin of five victims who hailed from Dehradun, Bageshwar and Haridwar districts of Uttarakhand and Lakhimpur Kheri and Aligarh districts of neighbouring Uttar Pradesh.
(With PTI inputs)