Rescue workers on Monday began efforts to open a blocked tunnel of NTPC’s 480 Mw Topovan Vishnugaud hydel project in the disaster-hit Uttarakhand in a desperate attempt to rescue 25-35 trapped people, a day after it was dented by the deluge on Sunday morning.
The state government reviewed its list of the missing people saying over 190 persons were untraceable in the disaster even as at least 26 bodies have been recovered.
Relief work in the disaster hit areas of Chamoli district gathered pace on Monday as a multi-agency operation continued to save the trapped people inside tunnel of hydel project that was badly damaged by the Sunday morning deluge. It may take a day or two before making way for rescuing the trapped people, said top government officials.
Jawans of army, ITBP, NDRF and SDRF with rescue-equipments entered the tunnel with sniffer dogs in what is seen as the biggest rescue operation in the hill state since the 2013 Kedarnath disaster in which over 5000 people were killed.
Top police officials said over 190 persons are still missing. So far, at least 26 bodies have been recovered. There is still some confusion over the exact number of people rescued as well as missing after the Sunday’s morning flash floods that brought wide-spread death and destruction in the highly fragile Chamoli district.
State DGP Ashok Kumar said rescue workers were using poclain machines and other equipments in their operation. “The Vishnugaud tunnel is very difficult to enter as there is a curve inside. But we are confident that our brave forces will try their best to rescue the trapped people,” said Kumar.
Nearly 12 people who were rescued from Topovan-Vishnugaud project on Sunday evening narrated their harrowing experiences when they remained trapped inside a tunnel. “I remained clung to a handle as the water and debris gushed inside the tunnel,” said Ram Bahadur, a worker who was shifted to ITBP Joshimath hospital. Similar accounts were narrated by other workers who were undergoing treatment in the hospital.
Chief Minister Trivendra Singh Rawat had stated that the exact cause of the disaster was not known and expert team will find out. He has asked scientists from Wadia Institute of Himalayan Geology to visit the area for a detailed study in this regard. The CM again rushed to the disaster site this evening to oversee the rescue and relief works.
The flash floods triggered by a glacier-burst had completely destroyed 13.2 Mw Rishganga hydel project and heavily damaged downstream NTPC’s 480 Mw Topovan-Vishnugaud on Dhauliganga river in Chamoli district.
A concerned Union Power Minister R K Singh on Monday visited Topovan, the site where NTPC’s Topovan-Vishnugaud project. Singh visited the disaster areas to take stock of the situation. He was accompanied by top state government officials including state Power Secretary Radhika Jha.
“We will not scrap Tapovan Vishnugaud hydel project,” Singh told reporters when asked to comment on the future of NTPC’s project.
Soon after the 2013 Kedarnath disaster, a total of 24 hydel projects with a total capacity of 2900 Mw were suspended on environmental grounds in Bhagirathi and Alaknanda valleys in Garhwal region.