Uttarakhand Floods : The Aftermath so far

Edlyn Cardoza | 18 February, 2021 | Mumbai

The sudden and disastrous Uttarakhand flash floods which occurred on February 07, 2021 in the state’s Chamoli district still continues with its search and rescue operations. 10 days since the incident, and only 58 bodies have been retrieved from the sites including from Raini village, Tapovan tunnel, and the rivers so far. Dozens, around 146 people are still missing. 

So far, what have the operations achieved?

From the other side of the tunnel, ITBP personnel had managed somehow to rescue 12 labourers, hours after the flood had severely damaged the hydropower project in Tapovan on the Dhauli Ganga river and slush choked part of the tunnel. 

However, the main operation was at a site where around 34 labourers were feared to be trapped 180 metres inside the tunnel. As much as ITBP and NDRF personnel cleared the debris and the slush, they kept getting into more of it. 

The Indian Express reported that in order to trace the location where the trapped labourers were stuck, an aerial survey was done utilizing a helicopter-borne Electromagnetic Pulse Imager to get an idea of the density inside the intake tunnel. Up to 120 metres, inside the tunnel, a drone with cameras were also sent, but unfortunately the cameras did not discover any evidence of the presence of humans on that stretch. 

The rescue teams on February 10, three days after the disaster struck, changed their strategy after coming to a conclusion about the possibility of the workers being trapped at another silt filtration tunnel (SFT), which is located 12 metres below the intake tunnel. 

Drilling began into the SFT, but was soon halted after the drill ran into sludge at a profundity of 6 metres. At a distance of 75 metres from the opening of the Intake Adit tunnel, another attempt was made to drill into the SFT – this effort was successful, however the borewell was found not to be suitable for lowering lights and cameras because of the pressure of the slush. The borewell was plugged, and the process of removal of slush from the intake tunnel with excavators was again resumed. 

A week after the flood, the first breakthrough was achieved on February 14, 2021 on Sunday. Initially six bodies were recovered; and as of now, 11 bodies in all have been recuperated from the tunnel. 

5 km upstream of the NTPC site in Tapovan, bodies have also been recovered from the debris here, of another hydropower plant in Raini village. 

The SDRF teams have also found bodies in the rivers, including the Dhauli Ganga and Alaknanda downstream in the districts of Chamoli, Rudraprayag, and Tehri Garhwal.

What is ahead of the search and rescue operations?

So far, from sites inclusive of the Raini village, rivers, and Tapovan tunnel, only 58 bodies have been recovered; at least 146 individuals are still missing. There are at least 476 personnel of the NDRF, SDRF, ITBP, and Army, alongside medical teams and personnel from the Fire and Revenue Departments and the police, have been posted in Raini village, Tapovan and along the rivers from Raini to Srinagar downstream. There are another 326 personnel standing by. 

Only about 140 metres of the tunnel at NTPC’S hydropower project in Tapovan has been cleared, which is about 5% out of the 2.5 km tunnel length. However, it is said that the 34 labourers are feared to be trapped at 180 m, another three labourers are said to be trapped at least 1.7 km inside. 

There virtually remains no hope of finding anyone of those labourers alive any longer, but officials told that the entire tunnel will be cleared of the slush since the bodies could be anywhere inside, reported The Indian Express. There is also no time frame given yet, on when the operation will be completed. 

On Monday, DGP Ashok Kumar said that until all missing people aren’t found, the search and rescue operations will continue. 

Massive deposits of debris and mud around the barrage in Tapovan and on the two banks of the Rishi Ganga river in Raini village had at first restricted the movement of machines and human beings only to a few safe areas. Yet, as the surface of the deposited muck is drying with the rise in temperatures, rescue teams have been directed to dispatch search operations nearer to the river, and to attempt to approach the barrage at Tapovan using machines. 

Near the barrage on the Dhauli Ganga in Tapovan, more than 100 people are feared to be missing. Officials also said that there is no saying when or if any of those who were washed away by the river would be found, officials said.

The labourers whose bodies have so far been recovered from the tunnel and in the mud in the Raini village, were likely to be dead within half an hour, said the Chamoli Chief Medical Officer Dr G S Rana. 

References:

https://indianexpress.com/article/explained/uttarakhand-flash-floods-disaster-rescue-operations-tapovan-chamoli-7192862/

Image Sources:

  1. Outlook India
  2. Telangana Today
  3. Business Standard
  4. DNA India
  5. Live India

Edlyn Cardoza

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