11th day: Rescue efforts hampered by water accumulation inside tunnel
Tapovan: Rescuers pumped out the water accumulated in the NTPC's flood-ravaged Tapovan tunnel on Wednesday as they continued efforts on the 11th day to find survivors of the February 7 glacial disaster.
Sludge clearing at the adit tunnel, where eleven bodies were recovered recently, was temporarily suspended since Tuesday evening due to the seepage of water which was flushed out with the help of submersible pumps provided by the NTPC, NDRF Commandant PK Tiwari said.
"Removal of wet debris with JCBs is difficult. So it was decided to resume muck clearing only after flushing out water accumulated inside the intake adit tunnel," he said. However, the debris clearing exercise resumed at 3.15 PM after pumping out water, NDRF Deputy Commandant AP Singh said.
It seems reaching the possible location of those feared trapped inside a lower tunnel running parallel to the adit tunnel will take longer as rescue personnel have been able to go only up to 150 metres inside intake adit, Tiwari said. "The biggest challenge is the fresh slush flowing in as we move ahead clearing the debris inside the tunnel," Tiwari said.
Apart from scouring inside the tunnel and near the barrage of the NTPC's Tapovan-Vishnugad project site, the NDRF rescue teams are also searching along the banks of the Alaknanda river and near a temple in Raini where villagers suspect some people to be trapped, he said.
It is the eleventh day since the calamity struck following the burst of a glacier in Rishiganga, and the hopes of families waiting for their missing kin are also on the wane.
So far, 58 bodies of disaster victims have been recovered including 11 from a tunnel in Tapovan, while 146 people are still missing.
Meanwhile, a joint team of the ITBP and DRDO on Wednesday reached a high-altitude artificial lake in Chamoli district of Uttarakhand that is suspected to have been formed after the recent flash floods.
The lake is created at a place called Murenda which is estimated to be about 5-6 hours trek uphill from Raini village that bore the maximum brunt of the February 7 disaster, officials said.
"This is the first team to reach the lake at ground zero. The ITBP and Defence Research and Development Organisation personnel will analyse any possible threat posed by this artificial lake formed due to the recent flash floods," Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) spokesperson Vivek Kumar Pandey said.