By Arun Pratap Singh
Dehradun, 15 Feb: The recovery of dead bodies from the tunnel of NTPC’s under-construction hydro project in Tapovan is still underway. The rescue teams have so far recovered 56 dead bodies. Of these, 29 bodies have been identified, while preservation of the DNA samples of unidentified bodies is also being carried out. According to DGP Ashok Kumar, three bodies were recovered from the tunnel during the rescue operation since late last evening. He added that the rescue operation would continue for the next three to four days. Apart from this, a body has been recovered from Maithana village.
Ujjwal Bhattacharya, Project Director, NTPC, has said that the rescue teams progressed up to 136 metres inside the Tapovan tunnel. Bodies were being recovered with caution so as to return them to their family members. Sludge from the tunnel has also been cleared by drilling and using several mechanical devices up to a length of 135 metres, even as rescue operations were hindered by several factors including obstructions caused due to rocks and the fluctuations in the level of water and sludge inside the tunnel.
Meanwhile, the State Disaster Response Force has set up an alarm system to detect the rise in the level of water and issue alerts in Raini village of Chamoli district. It is being claimed that this alarm system would detect any significant rise in the level of water and alert the authorities at the earliest.
Sources present at the site said that any hopes of finding living persons inside the tunnel have vanished and with that many of the family members of those trapped have also returned to their native places. Most of such people are from economically weaker sections of society and have complained of lack of financial resources to stay at the disaster site.
A total of 179 people have been reported missing according to the FIR registered at Joshimath police station, while so far DNA samples of a total of 55 families have been taken to assist in identification. Relief and rescue work is going on continuously.
According to the official reports coming in from the District Administration, Chamoli, Garhwal Divisional Commissioner Ravinath Raman today held a review meeting with the District Magistrate, Swati S Bhadauria, and officials concerned with the relief and rescue work in disaster affected areas at the IRS camp office. According to the district administration, the rescue teams of ITBP, NDRF and district administration were instructed to expedite the rescue work and also asked to increase the number of machines as required. Raman directed the officials to continue the sludge removal work and rescue operation on a war footing in collaboration with the equipment at the barrage site. During the review of Chamoli Police and Revenue Department, it was revealed that 54 human bodies and 22 body parts had been recovered, so far, while one dead body was recovered from village Maithana. Of the bodies recovered, so far, 28 human bodies and one body part have been identified.
It was disclosed at the meeting that the disbursement of grant assistance to affected families was in progress. It was further stated that 1295 people had been tested today by the seven medical teams present at the disaster site. So far, 56 DNA sampling and 57 post mortems have been conducted. In addition, health camps have been set up in Ringi, Regdi, Surai Yoth and Raini Chaklata in the affected area. The BRO was directed to speed up the construction of a Bailey Bridge. The Peyjal officials and the UPCL officials were also directed to restore supply of water and power to the affected areas.
By Arun Pratap Singh