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Uttarakhand disaster: Death toll rises to 31; Rescue operations on war-footing

By Saima Siddiqui 
Updated Date

Dehradun: The Uttarakhand flash flood that washed off several villages and dams on Sunday, claimed dozens of lives with latest toll reaching 31 after five more bodies were recovered on Tuesday.

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The death toll from the Uttarakhand glacier disaster continues to rise even though multi-agency operation is currently underway to rescue around 35 workers who are feared to be trapped inside a swamped tunnel at the Tapovan power project in Chamoli district.

Union Home Minister Amit Shah also issued a statement in Rajya Sabha on the avalanche in Uttarakhand’s Chamoli district and said all concerned agencies of Centre and State are monitoring the situation. Members of Rajya Sabha also paid tribute to victims of the disaster during the parliamentary session.

Shah in his speech said that Centre is monitoring the situation. “PM himself is monitoring it. Both the control rooms of the Home Ministry are monitoring the situation round the clock and the state is being provided with all the possible help,” he said.

Earlier during the day, Chief Minister Trivendra Singh Rawat had conducted an aerial survey of areas affected in the glacier disaster and took stock of the situation.

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Furthermore, personnel of the ITBP, NDRF and Army are all trying to locate around 170 missing people, mostly labourers working at two power projects, that got washed away in the flash flood.

As per officials, rescue operations are centred around a 1,900-metre-long tunnel at NTPC’s Tapovan site, where at least 35 people are believed to be trapped. A barrage at the project site had also been destroyed in the flood that saw water rise up to 70 feet, leading to debris blocking the 20-feet-wide opening of the tunnel.

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“A joint team of ITBP, NDRF, SDRF and other agencies conducting rescue operation used drone camera to see feasibility to enter beyond cleared site inside Tapovan tunnel. They haven’t been successful so far. Machines deployed to clear slush,” the ITBP said.

Among the missing people in the Uttarakhand disaster, at least 70 from Uttar Pradesh are reportedly feared missing in the glacier burst at Joshimath in Uttarakhand’s Chamoli district that triggered an avalanche and a deluge in the Alaknanda river system that washed away hydroelectric stations on Sunday, as per officials.

“As of now, 70 people from Uttar Pradesh are feared missing, including 34 from Lakhimpur Kheri, nine from Saharanpur and five from Shravasti,” Relief Commissioner of Uttar Pradesh Sanjay Goyal told media on Tuesday.

Initially, the cause of the tragedy was considered to be a breach in a temporary pool or lake formed by obstructions due to landslides or snow avalanches, an event described as a Landslide Lake Outburst Flood (LLOF). However, the satellite images circulated among scientists tracking the incident, show that a large chunk of fresh snow from a mountain near Raini village in Chamoli district had dropped off on February 7, which probably set off the flash flood. The avalanche triggered by this could have released 3-4 million cubic metres of water in the rivers.

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