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Uttarakhand Disaster: Death Toll up to 50, 150 Still Missing

Uttarakhand Disaster: Death Toll up to 50, 150 Still Missing

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NEW DELHI, Feb 14: The death toll in last week’s flash floods following glacier burst in Rishiganga and Dhauliganga rivers in Chamoli district in Uttarakhand has gone up to 50 with 12 more bodies recovered by the rescuers on Sunday, a week after the tragedy. At least 150 more people are still reported missing. Official sources said five of the bodies were pulled out from the 1.7km long main tunnel of after the rescuers cleared the muck inside the tunnel of the NTPC’s Tapovan-Vishnugad Hydropower Plant at a distance of about 130 metres. They were among the 35 workers trapped inside the tunnel including about 30 workers trapped in another smaller underground tunnel beneath the main one. Seven other bodies were recovered from various places.

“In the morning two bodies were first recovered inside the tunnel after clearing the muck at a distance of about 125-130 metres. Following that, three more bodies were recovered till Sunday afternoon,” Swati S Bhadauria, Chamoli district magistrate, said.

Rescuers are also conducting vertical drilling to reach out to the smaller tunnel to rescue about 30 workers trapped inside. “On Saturday, the rescue workers finished drilling vertically in the main tunnel to reach out to a small underground tunnel beneath it at a depth of 12.7 metres. They, however, hit slush after drilling the required depth which they have been pumping out to get inside to search for workers trapped inside it.”

Rescue workers recovered the seven other bodies from Raini village near the Rishiganga hydel power project, the first one to be hit by the flash floods on Sunday. The remaining one body was recovered from Rudraprayag district in the Alaknanda river.

Nilesh Anand Bharne, deputy inspector general (law and order), said out of the 50 bodies which have been pulled out, 25 have been identified. “Of the 50 bodies, 41 were recovered from Chamoli district, seven from Rudraprayag and one each from Tehri Garhwal and Pauri Garhwal districts,” Bharne said.

Bharne said rescue workers have also recovered 23 human body parts. “DNA samples of all the body parts and dead bodies have been collected to ascertain their identities,” he added.

Rescue workers have so far cremated 32 bodies and 11 human body parts “with complete rituals and respect”, he added.

An eight-member team of the State Disaster Response Force (SDRF), which had gone on foot to gather information on the glacier lake about eight kilometer above Raini village, said the 350-metre lake posed no threat of any flash floods as water was continuously draining out in the form of a stream.

The SDRF team also created a makeshift helipad near the glacial lake so that a helicopter could land there, if needed, officials said.

(Manas Dasgupta)

 

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