The toll in the Uttarakhand glacier disaster rose to 32, while 197 people were still missing, The Hindu reported on Tuesday. Meanwhile, rescuers managed to enter the Tapovan tunnel, where around 35 people are still trapped.

A video shows personnel from the Indo-Tibetan Border Police, the National Disaster Response Force and State Disaster Response Force clear the debris and carefully enter the tunnel. Inside the dark tunnel, the rescuers use torches to wade through the slush.

An unidentified ITBP official told The Hindu that the rescuers had to clear a 60-metre patch of debris and slush before they could hope to make contact with the people trapped inside the 2.5 kilometre-long tunnel. The official added that clearing that patch was proving to be very challenging.

“The tunnel is up to 15 feet high and the height of the debris is 13-14 feet,” the spokesperson said. “We have cleared up to 120 metres so far. It is this 60 metres that is proving to be extremely challenging to clear. There is a gap beyond this mound where this tunnel meets the other and we are hopeful of finding the trapped people there.”

Indo-Tibetan Border Police Vivek Kumar Pandey said the rescuers worked overnight to clear the slush and debris, PTI reported.

The rescuers have also deployed a helicopter equipped with an electromagnetic pulse imager to conduct an aerial survey of the Tapovan tunnel, The Indian Express reported. They also sent a drone with five cameras inside the tunnel. However, the cameras failed to show any human presence in the stretch that they covered.

Earlier on Tuesday, Union Home Minister Amit Shah informed the Parliament that the Centre was closely monitoring the rescue operation in Uttarakhand. “450 jawans of ITBP [Indo-Tibetan Border Police], 5 teams of NDRF [National Disaster Response Force], 8 teams of Indian Army, a Navy team and 5 IAF helicopters are engaged in search and rescue operation,” he said, according to ANI.

Shah also said that the Centre had released a sum of Rs 468.50 crore out of the total Rs 1,041 allotted to Uttarakhand under the State Disaster Risk Management Fund in 2020-21, according to The Hindu.

Aerial survey

A team of experts from the Wadia Institute of Himalayan Geology made an aerial survey of the location where the flash flood was triggered, The Indian Express reported.

“They made an aerial survey in a helicopter on Tuesday afternoon and were able to make an initial assessment,” glaciologist DP Dobhal, who has been in touch with the team, told the newspaper. “It does look like a case of a large chunk of snow slipping from a hanging glacier. It could have created a temporary pondage which burst after some time.”

Dobhal added that another possible cause of the incident could have been breaking open of a sub-glacial lake.

The National Remote Sensing Centre, a Hyderabad-based unit of the Indian Space Research Organisation released the first set of satellite images of the affected areas, highlighting the damage caused in Tapovan Dam and other parts.

Also read:

Uttarakhand floods: ‘Disasters happen when we do something stupid’