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Thursday, February 25, 2021

Uttarakhand disaster: No headway in tunnel, officials deploy drones, laser imaging

So far, 32 bodies have been recovered in the region, with over 170 people still missing.

Written by Lalmani Verma | Tapovan (dharamshala) |
Updated: February 10, 2021 7:50:42 am
Uttarakhand flash floods, Ittarakhand death toll, Uttarakhand people missing, survivors, Uttarakhand tunnel, Uttarakhand news, Indian express newsRescue works underway near Raini village on Thursday.

With more than two days since the flash flood struck Chamoli district of Uttarakhand, hopes of finding any more survivors at the Tapovan and Rishi Ganga power project sites dimmed as rescue agencies recovered six more bodies on Tuesday.

So far, 32 bodies have been recovered in the region, with over 170 people still missing.

DIG Garhwal Neeru Garg said that of the six bodies recovered on Tuesday, four were from the Rishi Ganga power project site at Raini village, one was from Chamoli and another from Nandprayag. Two of the bodies are of police personnel who were deployed at the power plant, she said.

Raini village, Rescue officials, Uttarakhand flash floods, Uttarakhand news, Indian express news Rescue operations near Raini village in Uttarakhand on Tuesday. (Photo: Gajendra Yadav)

At the Tapovan tunnel, the centre of the rescue operations where 35 people are feared trapped, there has been no breakthrough so far, despite excavators working round the clock to remove the slush in the 1.9-km tunnel. Rescue agencies are now deploying advanced technologies such as a helicopter carrying a laser with electromagnetic pulse imager for an aerial survey over the tunnel, and a camera drone to be sent inside the tunnel.

According to officials at the site, the Hyderabad-based National Geophysical Research Institute has sent the laser imager, a hexagonal device which is suspended from a helicopter and which does laser detecting and ranging.

On Tuesday, a helicopter with the device took several rounds of the affected area for an aerial survey. Officials said the device will help find air pockets inside the tunnel.

“The blocked area spotted in the images are likely to be slush. And the presence of air pockets will mean that our people may be trapped there and that we will have to get to that point,” said Manjunath P C, Commandant, Indian Reserve Battalion, who is coordinating the rescue operation at the tunnel site.

Manjunath said the presence of air pockets will help them ascertain how much more slush needs to be removed for their personnel to reach the trapped men. “So far we don’t know how deep inside the tunnel the slush is, and how much more area we have to clear,” Manjunath said.

ITBP ADG Manoj Singh Rawat said once the air pockets are spotted, the rescue operation will be planned accordingly. He said their first step would be to supply oxygen through the air pockets for people trapped inside. He added that technical experts were being engaged in the operation.

On Tuesday, a drone with five cameras was sent inside the tunnel. While until afternoon the NDRF and ITBP personnel could only reach up to 90 metres inside the tunnel, the drone got to 120 metres, flying through a narrow gap between the slush and the tunnel roof. But officials said the drone images failed to show any human presence in that stretch.

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