Uttarakhand tunnel rescue ops: Progress, hurdles and strategies

In the week since the flash flood in Uttarakhand’s Chamoli district, two tunnels of an NTPC hydro-power project in Tapovan area have been at the centre of rescue operations. The initial target was to clean an 180-metre area of slush to rescue 34 workers feared trapped there. On Sunday, five bodies were recovered from one of the tunnels.

Revisiting the painstaking, day-to-day progress in the operation, the changing strategies:

February 8
The rescue operation inside the intake tunnel, started after the February 7 flash flood, was halted for a few hours following a rise in the Dhauli Ganga river. It resumed at 5 am on Monday. The slush was cleared up to only 90 metres after a day-long exercise.

February 9
After removal of slush with rudimentary equipment like excavators, an aerial survey was done by a helicopter-bound Laser with Electromagnetic Pulse Imager for analysis of the density inside the intake tunnel. A drone with cameras was also sent inside the tunnel up to 120 metres, but failed to show human presence in that stretch. This day, NDRF and ITBP personnel were able to only reach up to 90 metres— as they removed the slush, more muck kept coming out. Army men attempted to launch a search near the barrage in Dhauli Ganga—a site where more than a hundred people are feared missing—but called it off after finding the surface unsuitable for movement. The rescue appeared more organised when a joint operational centre was set up and layout of the tunnel…

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