Chamoli: Rescue and restoration work at Raini village, after a glacier burst on Feb. 7 in Joshimath triggered a flash flood, in Chamoli district of Uttarakhand.Saturday, Feb. 13, 2021.
Chamoli: Rescue and restoration work at Raini village, after a glacier burst on Feb. 7 in Joshimath triggered a flash flood, in Chamoli district of Uttarakhand.Saturday, Feb. 13, 2021.
Arun Sharma / PTI

Rescuers on Saturday were busy widening a hole in a tunnel to find 25 to 35 trapped people in the disaster-hit Tapovan project area of Chamoli district in Uttarakhand.

Photos from the site, posted by news agencies, showed drilling work being conducted inside the Tapovan tunnel on the seventh day of the rescue operation in Chamoli.

Top government and police officials had earlier in the day said there was no big breakthrough yet in the rescue work which entered the seventh day. "We have made a hole but we can't say it is a big breakthrough unless we find something concrete," said a top police official.

But officials claimed the rescue work had been speeded up with the installation of some additional machines like excavators. According to the latest updates, 38 bodies have been recovered so far, while relief and rescue operation is underway.

Presently, the rescuers are working on two strategies - drilling a hole vertically downward and also digging and excavating debris and sludge inside the tunnel.

Meanwhile, two more bodies were recovered on Friday taking the death toll to 38. Nearly 200 people went missing after the Sunday morning deluge.

"The rescue work inside the tunnel is on in full swing," said Navneet Bhullar, commandant of the SDRF, who is camping at Tapovan site. However, there is still no contact with the trapped people inside.

Two days ago, rescue workers had started drilling the tunnel vertically downward. But within hours, the drilling work was intermittently disrupted due technical reasons. Rescuers made another attempt last night and made a small hole vertically downward.

Ever since the excavation and digging work began inside the tunnel, the rescuers had been working on multi-pronged strategies in their desperate bid to open the blocked tunnel.

After days of digging and excavation work, jawans of the Army, ITBP, NDRF and SDRF, who are engaged in the rescue works, had managed to open a sizable portion of the tunnel. But the presence of heavy silt and sludge inside the tunnel slowed down the excavation and digging work, top government officials said. Rescuers also consulted NTPC officials to understand the complicated design of the tunnel.

(With inputs from IANS)

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