Rescue work gathers pace in disaster-hit Uttarakhand

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NDRF in Tapovan tunnel rescue work.

Rescue and relief work in the disaster-hit areas of Chamoli district in Uttarakhand gathered pace on Monday as a multi-agency operation continued to save 25-35 trapped people inside a tunnel of Tapovan Vishnugaud project that was blocked by the Sunday morning deluge.

Union Power Minister R.K. Singh said special equipment would be used to speed up the rescue operation inside the tunnel. However, there is still no contact with the trapped people inside.

The state government said on Monday evening that a total of 197 people were missing after the disaster and 26 bodies have been recovered. In the 197 missing people, all those people who are trapped inside the tunnel are also included. However, the confusion still persisted on how many people have been rescued so far. A statement of the state disaster control centre said 27 people have been rescued so far. However, top police officials maintained that only 12 were rescued.

Jawans of army, ITBP, NDRF and SDRF with rescue-equipments entered the tunnel with sniffer dogs in what is seen as the biggest rescue operation in the hill state since the 2013 Kedarnath disaster in which more than 5,000 people were killed.

DGP Ashok Kumar said rescue workers were using bulldozers, JCB and other machines in their operation. “The Vishnugaud tunnel is very difficult to enter as there is a curve inside. But we are confident that our brave forces will try their best to rescue the trapped people,” said Kumar.

Chief Minister Trivendra Singh Rawat had stated that nearly 176 people were working in the two hydel projects – 13.2 MW Rishiganga and 480 Mw Tapovan-Vishnugaud when the disaster struck on Sunday morning. He again rushed to the disaster site this evening to oversee the relief and rescue works.

All those who were rescued last evening were rushed to ITBP hospital in Joshimath where the two people who had suffered bone fractures were taken to a government hospital in Gopeshwar, the district headquarters of Chamoli.

Meanwhile, Union Power Minister R.K. Singh on Monday visited Tapovan, the site where NTPC’s Tapovan-Vishnugaud project is being built. Singh visited the disaster areas to take stock of the situation. He was accompanied by top state government officials including state Power Secretary Radhika Jha. “We will not scrap the Tapovan Vishnugaud hydel project,” Singh told reporters when asked to comment on the future of NTPC’s project.

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