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Uttarakhand Tragedy: Toll Up to 26; Night-long Rescue Op Mounted for Over 30 Workers Trapped In Tunnel

12 people were rescued from one tunnel yesterday. The second tunnel is being cleared with the help of JCB machines to rescue people.
(News 18)

12 people were rescued from one tunnel yesterday. The second tunnel is being cleared with the help of JCB machines to rescue people. (News 18)

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, BJP President JP Nadda, Union Home Minister Amit Shah today interacted with Uttarakhand MPs, discussed relief efforts and future course of action over Uttarakhand glacier disaster.

At least 26 bodies have been recovered and rescue teams have launched multiple operations to search for those missing since the Nandadevi Glacier burst early yesterday causing a flash flood in the region. According to Uttarakhand Disaster Management Centre, 197 people are missing.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, BJP President JP Nadda, Union Home Minister Amit Shah today interacted with Uttarakhand MPs, discussed relief efforts and future course of action over Uttarakhand glacier disaster.

Meanwhile, Uttarakhand Chief Minister Trivendra Rawant visited Joshimath again on Monday to take stock of the situation. "A joint team of NDRF, SDRF and Army is conducting a rescue operation. The team has reached the 130-metre mark in Tapovan tunnel, it may take 2-3 hours to reach the T-point. Efforts underway to safely rescue those who are stuck in the tunnel," ANI quotes Rawat as saying.

A worker, who was pulled out along with 11 others from another blocked tunnel by a team of ITBP personnel yesterday, said, "We were working inside the tunnel when someone shouted 'move out'. Before we could leave, the water gushed inside at high speed and we got stuck. We held onto the tunnel crown until water level subsided. Had lost all hope but ITBP saved us."

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Currently, a joint team of the ITBP, Indian Army, SDRF and NDRF has mounted a massive rescue mission to breach another tunnel in Tapovan where 39 people, including plant workers and senior officials, are said to be stuck. The team had earlier managed to enter the tunnel but could only reach about 100 metres before they were forced to retreat as sludge and water blocked their way.

This comes after a glacier break in Uttarakhand's Chamoli district resulted in an avalanche and huge floods in the Alaknanda and Dhauliganga rivers on Sunday morning, forcing the evacuation of thousands, and damaging both houses and the nearby Rishiganga and NTPC power projects. Uttarakhand Chief Minister has announced Rs 4 lakh compensation for the family of those killed. Rawat also said teams from the police, the Army and the ITBP, as well as from the national and state disaster response forces, were "doing their best to save the lives of the workers at sites affected by the disaster".

Over 170 labourers -- 148 employed at the NTPC plant and 22 at Rishiganga -- are said to be missing, a spokesperson said while quoting the project-in charge. The massive flood came as a grim reminder of the Kedarnath deluge of 2013 which led to widespread devastation in the ecologically fragile Himalayan region. A devastating natural disaster in the form of torrential rains of unseen magnitude had struck Kedarnath on 16-17 June in 2013. The banks of the Chorabari lake in Kedarnath had collapsed due to a cloudburst that had resulted in a major flash flood causing widespread destruction in Uttarakhand and led to heavy losses to infrastructure, agriculture lands, human and animal lives.

However, unlike the Kedarnath tragedy which struck after a downpour, the flash flood on Sunday occurred on a bright and sunny morning which helped in relief and rescue operations by police, State Disaster Response Force (SDRF), National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) and ITBP personnel in the affected areas.

Several leaders, including Prime Minister Modi and President Ram Nath Kovind, prayed for the safety of the victims. Modi, who was in West Bengal and Assam as part of the BJP's political campaign for the upcoming Assembly polls, said the Centre is providing all possible help. “I am constantly monitoring the unfortunate situation in Uttarakhand. India stands with Uttarakhand, prays for everyone's safety,” he said.

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