The rescue operation at the Tapovan hydel project tunnel in Uttarakhand’s Chamoli district, where about 35 people were trapped after a Himalayan glacier broke and triggered flash floods on February 7, was temporarily suspended on Thursday after water levels of the Dhauli Ganga river rose again, ANI reported. The rescue team started work again at around 3.40 pm.
“Water level [of the river] is rising so teams were shifted to safer locations,” National Disaster Response Force personnel told the news agency. “Operation has resumed with limited teams.”
Rescuers scrambled to get out of the tunnel with heavy machinery as the water level surged, PTI reported. Meanwhile, the Chamoli Police issued an alert for people living close to the river, while urging them not to panic.
A multi-agency effort to rescue the workers of the National Thermal Power Corporation’s Tapovan-Vishnugad hydel power project has been on for four days. Earlier on Thursday, a drilling operation was launched at the site. Uttarakhand Governor Baby Rani Maurya also visited the site to assess the situation.
“We’d reached distance of 6 metres and then realised that water is coming there,” NTPC Project Director Ujjwal Bhattacharya had told ANI. “Had we continued, there would’ve been issues as rocks are unstable, excavator would’ve fallen.”
The continuous flow of slush and silt at the U-shaped tunnel has made it difficult for the rescuers to reach the trapped workers. Till Wednesday, rescuers had cleared about 120 metres of slush from the mouth of the tunnel. However, the workers were believed to be trapped 180 metres into the tunnel.
Meanwhile, the toll from the glacier disaster rose to 34, ANI reported. The Uttarakhand government said that 10 bodies had been identified so far. More than 200 people are still missing.
Union Home Minister Amit Shah had on Tuesday informed the Parliament that the Centre was closely monitoring the massive 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 Indian Air Force helicopters are engaged in search and rescue operation,” he said, according to ANI.