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Friday, February 26, 2021

Uttarakhand rescue: As hope fades for kin, NTPC officials face protest

Top NTPC officials, who visited the spot to take stock of rescue efforts, were gheraoed and bombarded with questions about the operations by the irked protesters.

Written by Lalmani Verma | Tapovan |
February 13, 2021 3:21:26 am
Uttarakhand floods rescueA relief helicopter in Chamoli district on Friday. (PTI Photo)

Relatives of 34 labourers, who are yet to be rescued from a tunnel at the NTPC hydro power plant in Chamoli’s Tapovan area following a flash flood on Sunday, protested at the project site on Friday, alleging that the rescue operation lacked the required pace and equipment.

Top NTPC officials, who visited the spot to take stock of rescue efforts, were gheraoed and bombarded with questions about the operations by the irked protesters.

Meanwhile, two more bodies were found in Maithana and Raini villages on Friday, taking the toll to 38. According to the Chamoli district administration, 166 people are still missing.

“My mother has not eaten for the last six days. She remains unconscious… whenever she regains consciousness, she asks whether the tunnel has been opened or not. It’s the sixth day… hope of his survival has dimmed,” said Rita, whose brother Abhishek Pant (24) was working as an electrician at the project for two years. “I want to know the timeframe,” she said, adding that the rescue operation would have been successful if a family member of any “high-profile” person was trapped.

“Every day, I am told the tunnel will be opened soon and he will be found. But I do not think that he will be alive,” said Maheshwari Devi, who is looking for her nephew Saajan (19), who began work at the site nearly a month ago as his first job. “His mother Bhawani, a widow, is in Joshimath so I come here daily,” she said, adding that Saajan is the sole earner in the family.

Uday Tamta, a driver in the Chamoli municipal board whose younger brother Deepak—a civil engineer—is also trapped inside the tunnel, said he drove a team of NDRF personnel daily from Joshimath to the site in the morning and back in the night. But he said he has “lost my patience today”. “I am here to ask what they are doing for the past five days,” he said.

Protesters asked why more machines were not deployed and why there was no search operation at the barrage, where, they alleged, more than a 100 people were missing. As angry relatives stopped the vehicle of NTPC Chairman and Managing Director (CMD) Gurdeep Singh, he tried to assuage fears and said all possible efforts were being made.

Rescue personnel had on Thursday tried to reach the trapped labourers by drilling into an underground SFT. On Friday, Singh said drilling is complete till a depth of 10 metres and will be over within a few hours, after which cameras will be used to analyse the situation inside the tunnel.

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