Search operations continue for more than 30 people feared trapped in Tapovan tunnel
Chamoli (Uttarakhand), February 9, 2021
Personnel of the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) today moved about 120 metres into a blocked tunnel of the Tapovan Vishnugad hydro-electric project in an effort to reach more than 30 people feared trapped in it after the glacier burst in Uttarakhand that led to flash floods in the area on Sunday.
ITBP Additional Director General (Western Command) Manoj Singh Rawat reviewed the ongoing search and rescue efforts today.
ITBP officials said that only a stretch of 50-60 metres was left to be cleared after continuous effort through the night to reach a bend in the tunnel where these men were said to be stuck in a vehicle. Rescuers had deployed sniffer dogs to reach out to the trapped persons.
"Our initial target was to clear debris 180 metres from the tunnel's mouth, from where there is a bend to the right side where over 30 persons are feared stuck. These people were riding a vehicle when flash flood hit the project," ITBP spokesperson Vivek Pandey told IANS.
Earlier reports had quoted the police as saying that a 140-metre stretch had been cleared of debris.
More than 200 ITBP personnel had reached the spot soon after a glacial mudflow on Sunday morning triggered a massive flash flood at Joshimath in Uttarakhand's Chamoli district, hitting NTPC's Tapovan and Rishiganga hydro projects.
"Around 170 persons are still feared missing. There is information about recovery of 30 bodies from different locations. Three bodies were recovered from Reni village on Tuesday morning," Pandey said.
Earlier, state authorities were quoted as saying on Monday evening that 197 persons were still missing whereas 26 bodies had been recovered.
The NDRF, ITBP and state authorities are involved in search and rescue operation along with the Army. The Centre is monitoring the situation.
One column of Engineering Task Force (ETF) of the Army along with rescue equipment were deployed in the area. The Army men along with ETF personnel opened the tunnel mouth at Tapovan. Besides, a team of scientists flown to Dehradun on Sunday night also visited the spot.
Rough terrain, low temperature and debris in the tunnel are posing a major challenge for rescuers.