Tapovan tunnel: Rescuers are making slow progress as water and slush continue to accumulate

New Delhi:

Rescuers continue to dig through the rubble inside a damaged tunnel in Uttarakhand’s Tapovan in the hope of finding survivors, six days after a glacier disaster struck a hydel power plant in the hill state.

Thirty-six bodies have been found and over 200 are missing, the Uttarakhand government said.

Union Home Secretary Ajay Kumar Bhalla chaired a meeting to review the progress of rescue and relief work being carried out by central and agencies at the site of the hydro project of NTPC in Tapovan, the Home Ministry said in a statement.

Mr Bhalla reviewed steps needed to regulate the flow of water from a temporary obstruction formed upstream from the project. The secretary of Defence Research and Development Organisation has been asked to send experts to analyse the situation.

The rescue operation was stopped briefly on Thursday when water level in Dhauliganga river nearby began rising again.

In a change of strategy, rescuers are focusing on drilling through the hardened debris in the tunnel in Chamoli district, rather than just shifting mounds of silt and sludge deposited there by the sudden flood.

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The aim for now is to set up a “life-saving system”, possibly to pump oxygen into the blocked tunnel, officials said, news agency PTI reported.

The Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP), the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), the State Disaster Response Force (SDRF) and the Army are part of the multi-agency rescue effort, which continues even as hopes of finding the trapped workers alive recede every passing hour.

The rescue operation is focused on 1.5 km of a 2.5-km-long network of tunnels at the Tapovan-Vishnugad hydel power project.

A sudden flood in the Alaknanda river and its tributaries after the glacier broke off slammed the hydel project while people were still working there last Sunday, trapping and killing some of them.

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