Tapovan tunnel: Rescuers keep at it as hopes recede

Arun Sharma


Bright lights illuminate the surreal scene deep inside the tunnel: slush and mud, tread marks of vehicles that have been going in and out for the past week, and a single excavator still at work. 3 more bodies of the estimated 30 people initially feared trapped inside the Tapovan hydel project tunnel in Uttarakhand’s Chamoli district were pulled out on Tuesday.

But the pace of work during the day has been slow, officials said. Water is seeping out from the yet to be cleared the tunnel’s part, and is bei­ng continuously pumped out.

But it means more slush. Fewer rescue workers were at the job during Tuesday evening than the day before.

At around 150 metres, it’s easy to see what the rescue workers are up against. A solid wall of mud blocks the rest of the tunnel.

The water seepage and the slush made agencies deploy just the lone excavator which makes trips up and down the tunnel.

Rescue workers typically work a 4-hour shift, and are relieved by the next batch of men. Breathing in the tunnel is somewhat harder, as if the oxygen level is depleted.

NTPC starts giving relief

State-run power giant NTPC on Tuesday said it has started disbursal of compensation to families of workers at its Tapovan project, a company statement said. A team from NTPC, led by Tapovan project head RP Ahirwar, visited Vimala Devi at her house on Monday.

23 limbs found in addition to 58 bodies: The rescuers have recovered

23 limbs in addition to 58 bodies so far. The last rites of 55 bodies and 20 limbs have been performed after collecting DNA samples, said DIG Nilesh Anand Bharne, also the spokesman of the state police.

But the police believe all the 20 limbs do not belong to 20 persons separately, which means one or more than two limbs may belong to one person. Bharne also did not rule out this possibility when enquired. "It is possible two limbs belonged to one person," he said. Of the 58 bodies recovered so far, 31 have been identified.

Under the supervision of Ayush Agarwal, SP, Rudraprayga, DNA samples of 49 bodies and 56 family members have been sent to the forensic lab for matching.

So far, FIRs related to 179 missing persons have been registered at the Joshimath police station.

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