Tapovan/Dehradun, Feb 16 (PTI) Two more bodies were recovered early on Tuesday from the Tapovan tunnel where efforts were underway on the tenth consecutive day to reach workers feared trapped inside after a flash flood in Uttarakhand’s Chamoli district.
The confirmed death toll in the Chamoli disaster has now mounted to 58 and another 148 people are missing, an official said.
Eleven of the bodies were recovered from the tunnel at the National Thermal Power Corporation's Tapovan-Vishnugad project site, where about 30 people were initially feared trapped.
Meanwhile, Chamoli Chief Medical Officer G.S. Rana issued a video statement. He said that all those killed in the glacial disaster suffered bodily injuries, and that sludge and water entered their lungs.
“Post-mortem has been conducted on all the 58 bodies recovered so far by February 16 and I have seen the reports. All of them died of injuries sustained on their bodies and due to sludge and water entering their lungs,” he said.
The multi-agency rescue effort in Chamoli district is focusing on the Tapovan tunnel.
National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) commandant P.K. Tiwari said the search-and-rescue operations will go on till the last victim was reached. However, he also indicated that clearing the sludge and the debris from the entire tunnel could take months.
Asked about the chances of survival of those missing or trapped, the NDRF commandant said he could not be certain but that miracles do happen.
Rescue work at the site progressed slower on Tuesday than on other days with water seeping out of the debris from the yet to be cleared portion of the tunnel.
The agencies involved in the Tapovan rescue work include the Indo-Tibetan Border Police, the National Disaster Response Force and the State Disaster Response Force.
In an article for Newsclick, D. Raghunandan wrote: “The exact cause and circumstances behind the disaster are still emerging. It appears that the earlier speculation about a glacial lake burst might not be accurate. It now seems, based on studies of satellite imagery in India and abroad, alongside preliminary observations by Indian specialist teams, that a massive landslide was triggered due to the breaking-off of a large section of a rocky mountain-top. Ultimately resulting in an avalanche involving large quantities of recently accumulated snow and rocks. There is also some suspicion that this entire chain of events may have been triggered by the fall in a broken part of a glacier on to that unstable rock face.”
“This problem is exacerbated by the irresponsible rush to build numerous roads, power plants and other infrastructure in the region. The Himalayas are known to be a young and unstable mountain range. They are subject to frequent landslides, with cloudbursts and flash floods bringing down tons of rocks and other debris even under normal circumstances. Expanding settlements in hilly regions is already putting pressure on the local ecosystem due to road building, depletion of water sources, and tree felling leading to loosening of soil and rocks. This increases landslips and rainwater run-off leading to floods in local streams and rivers. These rash construction projects, especially under the present government, have taken such destruction to new and dangerous levels,” he added.
With PTI inputs