It's been four days since the Zargar family heard from Basharat, a senior engineer from Kashmir, who has been missing since the Nandadevi glacier burst in Uttarakhand's Chamoli district on Sunday triggering a flash flood in the Alaknanda river. At least 32 people have died, and over 170 others are still missing as multiple rescue agencies race against time to bring closure to anxious families.
Six members of the Zargar family are camping at the Rishiganga hydel project site, where teams of ITBP, SDRF, NDRF and the Indian Army are drilling through massive boulders and ploughing through heaps of sludge to reach over 30 workers trapped inside a flooded tunnel. Basharat, 53, was reportedly conducting a site inspection in the tunnel when, minutes after the glacier broke, water gushed inside blocking their exit.
"It will take at least two more days to clear the rubble,'' Rouf Ahmad, Zargar's brother-in-law told News18. Apart from Ahmad, his wife, son and daughter are also camping at the project.
''We made enquiries about him and came to know he was inside the project when the water flooded into it,'' Ahmad said, sounding dejected. He said the family was hoping against hope to find him.
''We are being helped by rescue officials on the ground.''
Basharat, an accomplished civil engineer who has designed many hydropower projects across north India, is a general manager at Kundan Group of Companies. Ahmad said Basharat had been sent to troubleshoot tiny glitches in the project and was supposed to come back to Delhi in a week's time.
In Srinagar, the Zargar family lives in Elahi Bagh locality of Soura, Srinagar.
Family and friends said Basharat had been at the Rishiganga power project, located on the upper stream of the Alaknanda, for the last one year.
Basharat's acquaintances told News18 that he has been designing hydro-electric projects for 35 years. He worked with a local company for three decades before being recruited by a US-based company for five years that put him in charge of half a dozen power projects in Himachal Pradesh. He later set up his own company named ENCON which was responsible for designing several mini and medium hydropower projects. ''I have the privilege of working with Basharat sahib for many years. He is an efficient, honest and passionate engineer. He is considered to be one of the best in northern India,'' Hilal Ahmad Dar, his colleague told News18. ''His research of locating 180 odd potential mini-hydropower points or locations across the three main rivers of Jammu and Kashmir is a huge give-away to administration,'' recalls Dar, his former subordinate.
The death toll in the disaster rose to 32 on Tuesday with six more bodies being recovered during the day. The missing people include those working at NTPC's 480-MW Tapovan-Vishnugad project and the 13.2-MW Rishiganga Hydel Project and villagers whose homes nearby were washed away.
The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) released first images of the glacier burst shedding light on the damage to infrastructure at the Tapovan hydroelectric plant.
The images show at least two bridges that were washed away in the flood. Two other structures, along with damaged infrastructure at Raini village, where a bridge and a road were washed away by the Rishiganga river were also seen. Another power plant, located in the village, also suffered severe damage.