The multi-agency rescue operation at a tunnel in Uttarakhand's Tapovan -- where more than 30 people are thought to be trapped for four days -- had to be temporarily halted as several rivers in the area surged again days after Sunday's flash-floods. Orders have been given to vacate the areas downstream, officials said.
The rescue work has resumed now. "Water level is rising so teams were shifted to safer locations. Operation has resumed with limited teams," news agency ANI quoted personnel from the National Disaster Relief Force as saying.
More than 200 people went missing after flash floods in Chamoli district on Sunday, believed to be brought on by a glacier burst at Nanda Devi. Two power plants and five bridges were washed away in the torrent of water that surged downstream on Alakananda and Dhauliganga rivers towards mid-morning. So far, 32 bodies have been recovered, some from as far as 45 km away.
Time has been running out for the people believed to be trapped in the tunnel near a severely damaged hydroelectric plant that was under construction at Tapovan.
The rescue work has been on for four days -- the pace of the work has been slow because of the mud and sludge inside the 12-metre deep U-shaped tunnel. Vertical drilling operation had started around 2 am yesterday to help flush out the sludge. A joint team of ITBP, NDRF, SDRF and sister agencies entered the tunnel yesterday.
After the alert was sounded today, security personnel working inside the tunnel rushed out and the heavy machines engaged in drilling through the debris and sludge were taken to safety.
"We had reached distance of 6 meters and then realised that the water is coming there. Had we continued, there would've been issues as rocks are unstable, excavator would've fallen. So we've suspended drilling operation for time being," Ujjwal Bhattacharya, the Project Director of National Thermal Power Corporation was quoted
as saying by news agency ANI.
The families of those believed to be trapped inside the tunnel had met Uttarakhand Governor Baby Rani Maurya earlier today, when she visited the site to take stock of the rescue work.
The families had broken down before the governor, seeking her intervention to expedite the rescue operations.