Twelve bodies were pulled out from the flash flood-hit areas of Uttarakhand's Chamoli district today, taking the count in the calamity to 50, as rescue teams battled against odds to save those trapped in a sludge-choked tunnel in Tapovan for a week now.
Five bodies were recovered from the intake adit tunnel of the state-run NTPC's 520 MW Tapovan-Vishnugad project, news agency PTI reported. These are the first bodies to be recovered from the site where muck-clearing and drilling operations have been underway on a war-footing since last Sunday.
Three others were recovered from Raini, where a 13.2 MW hydel project along the Rishiganga was destroyed in the calamity.
The recoveries take the number of dead in the disaster to 46, while 158 people remain missing, news agency PTI reported quoting officials.
Chamoli District Magistrate Swati Bhadoria, meanwhile, informed that search and rescue operations at Tapovan have been intensified following the recovery of two bodies.
On Saturday, rescue officials successfully drilled a 12-metre-long hole of 75 mm diameter in the intake adit tunnel in an attempt to reach the over 30 people trapped inside.
"There is no water or slush pressure observed in the silt-flushing tunnel. However, the camera could not be inserted due to the presence of slush. Drilling of a larger diameter hole has been planned now. Meanwhile mucking from the intake adit tunnel is in progress. The diameter of bore hole shall be 250-300 mm," National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) Tapovan, General Manager, R P Ahirwal said giving an update on the drilling operation at the tunnel.
Rescuers said they were still hopeful of finding survivors, notwithstanding the numerous challenges like the muck and the water from Dhauli Ganga constantly flowing into the tunnels.
The NTPC's Tapovan-Vishnugad hydel project has suffered heavy damages in the flash flood that followed a glacier break in the Tapovan-Reni area last week. The glacier break led to massive flooding in Dhauliganga and Alaknanda rivers and damaged houses and the nearby Rishiganga power project.