Uttarakhand disaster: On Day 9, rescue operation turns into search for bodies


Express News Service

DEHRADUN: With nine more bodies being recovered from the tunnel of Tapovan Hydropower Project in Uttarkhand’s Chamoli district on Monday, the chances of finding any of the 37 men trapped alive seems to be over as the rescue operation entered its ninth day. “Ab koi nahi milega. Ab toh bas bodies mil jayen wohi bohot hai. Kam se kam ghar wale unka antim sanskaar to kr lenge (No one can be found alive now. We hope to find bodies so that the families can perform the last rites at least),” an official closely monitoring the situation told TNIE.

Fifty-five bodies have been recovered from various spots, including the tunnel, while 149 are missing after the February 7 deluge damaged NTPC’s Tapovan-Vishnugad and Rishi Ganga hydel projects. NTPC project director Ujjwal Bhattacharya said rescue workers have reached up to 135 metres inside the 180-metre Tapovan tunnel. “Sludge and water impedes our progress. The bodies are being returned to families.” “The operations are being running on a war footing.

It can take three-four more days,” Uttarakhand DGP Ashok Kumar said. “If the need be, the operation may continue for more days…” Families, friends and relatives have also lost hope to find their near and dear ones alive.  “We have now accepted that my brother is not coming out of that tunnel alive. We are now waiting for his body to be found,” said Pooja Pant, who was one of the angry protesters on site who alleged that NTPC was not doing enough to rescue the trapped men.

Officials reviewed the progress of the operations in Tapovan, Raini and elsewhere on Monday. “Clearing of the tunnel is on from where a team recovered nine bodies today,” said Ravinath Raman, Commissioner of Garhwal division. As a precautionary step, SDRF has installed alarm system to detect the rise in the level of waters in Rishi and Dhauli Ganga to sound alert in case the temporary lake formed 8kms upstream breaks. 

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