The death toll of the recent Uttarakhand glacier burst has reached 54 after three more bodies were recovered from the flood-ravaged Tapovan tunnel on Monday.
Chamoli District Magistrate, Swati S Bhadauria said, the bodies were recovered this morning from the Adit tunnel at the NTPC's Tapovan-Vishnugad project site.
Rescue operations are now under progress at the Silt Flushing Tunnel (SFT) only with the use of excavators as a camera or a pipe cannot be inserted due to mounds of sludge and water choking it, the district magistrate said. Adding to this, she said,” The SFT at Tapovan where drilling was completed on Saturday night in the hope of inserting a camera to locate those believed to be trapped inside is also badly choked with slush and water”. “Rescue or recovery is possible only with the help of excavators now”.
According to the officials, over 150 people still remain missing after the calamity that hit Uttarakhand on February 7, triggering flash floods in various districts of the state. The disaster is believed to be a result of an avalanche in the upper reaches of the Alaknanda river system. A surge of water in the Dhauliganga and Rishiganga rivers had destroyed two hydel projects under development.
When asked about the chances of survival of those missing or trapped, the district magistrate said, "We must always try to be hopeful when the circumstances are adverse."
Around 30 people, who were at work inside the tunnel when the flash flood occurred, are believed to be trapped inside the SFT at Tapovan.
The last rites of those pulled out dead after DNA sampling and other formalities have also been going on and compensation cheques are also being distributed among the next of kin of the deceased. Families of those from outside the Chamoli district killed in the tragedy are being paid compensation of Rs 4 lakh each through bankers cheques by the concerned district administration.
Over 500 ration kits carrying foodgrains and essentials have already been distributed among residents of over a dozen villages that were cut off from the district headquarters following the disaster that struck a week ago. Electricity supply has been restored in all affected villages except Pang where solar lanterns have been provided to residents for the time being, she said.
The agencies involved in the Tapovan rescue work include the Indo-Tibetan Border Police, the National Disaster Response Force, and the State Disaster Response Force.
With inputs from PTI