Uttarakhand disaster caused by landslide due to accumulation of snow, says CM; rescue operations continue
A total of 19 dead bodies have been recovered so far, with the number of missing persons estimated at 202
The rescue operations in the second tunnel of Tapovan power project, which were initiated yesterday by a joint team of the Indian Army, ITBP, NDRF and SDRF jawans, continued on Monday to locate 35 workers reportedly stranded in the tunnel.
The team was able to remove debris from more than 80 meters of the 300 meter long tunnel. A total of 19 dead bodies have been recovered so far, with the number of missing persons estimated at 202.
The search operations had continued throughout last night with the help of earth movers and generators installed for lighting.
Disaster struck Rishiganga and the under-construction Tapovan hydro-electric project on river Dhauliganga in Uttarakhand’s Chamoli district following a massive upsurge of water and debris on Sunday. The employees of these two power projects and villagers living near the banks of the river were caught unaware by the massive flooding.
Twelve persons working at Rishiganga project and 15 workers working in another tunnel at Tapovan have so far been rescued by the rescue team. The rescue team comprises of 124 personnel of the Army, 16 of Indian Navy, two airmen, 425 jawans of ITBP, 129 NDRF personnel and a 70 member team of the State Disaster Relief force (SDRF).
Two medical teams of Army and two teams of state health department are providing medical help to the affected people, as per officials of the State Disaster Management Centre in Dehradun.
Helicopters were pressed into service to provide rations and other essentials to 13 villages which were cut off by the gushing water yesterday. Chamoli district magistrate said that these villages would be served with ‘heli-bridge’ services till alternate arrangements or bridges are rebuilt.
The district administration and police also continued searching the banks of the Alaknanda river in which Dhauliganga river merges downstream for dead bodies of the missing persons.
Union Education Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank and Union Power Minister R.K. Singh besides Pauri Garhwal MP Teerath Singh Rawat also visited Tapovan to take stock of the ground situation.
Uttarakhand Chief Minister Trivendra Singh Rawat chaired a meeting of senior civil and police officials and gave instructions for speedy relief operations. He instructed that teams of SDRF should be deployed near disaster prone areas. He also released an amount of Rs 20 crore from the accounts of SDRF for the relief and rescue efforts in the affected areas. Dr. Parkash Chauhan, Director, Indian Remote Sensing (IRS) also attended the meeting.
Uttarakhand Chief Secretary Om Parkash announced that standard Operation Procedure (SOP) for providing monetary relief to the next of kin of those deceased would be in place soon.
Rawat said that the satellite photos provided by IRS discounted the theory that it was a glacier burst. He said that the accumulation of snow during the past few days of snowfall triggered a landslide which brought debris and water with such force. “There are no glaciers in the satellite photos in the area,” he said.
The Chief Minister announced that he would again be visiting the affected areas in the evening and stay overnight there to personally supervise the rescue and relief operations.
The helicopters of the Indian Air Force (IAF) carried out sorties for insertion of rescue teams early in the morning and reconnaissance mission of higher reaches was also made to detect any avalanche threat.
The Rishikesh-Joshimath-Mana road which was blocked at Hathipahad due to the flash flood has been reopened by the Border Roads Organisation (BRO).