New Delhi | Jagran News Desk: At least 26 dead bodies have been recovered and 171 people are still missing after the glacier burst in Uttarakhand's Chamoli district, the state police said on Monday, as multiple agencies joined hands to rescue at least 35 workers trapped in a tunnel at a power project site.

A massive overnight operation led by a joint team of the ITBP, Indian Army, SDRF and NDRF is underway to rescue the power plant workers, trapped inside the tunnel. 

The team had earlier managed to enter the 12-foot high and 15-foot wide tunnel at Tapovan and reach about 100 metres before they were forced to retreat as sludge and water blocked their way. 

Uttarakhand Director General of Police Ashok Kumar said that efforts were focussed on rescuing the labourers trapped in the tunnel. Two villages are cut off and essentials are being supplied to them.

The work was complicated by the fact that the tunnel is slightly curved, making difficult to clear the slush, debris and silt blocking it.

The death toll is feared to rised further as 171 people are still missing, a day after a portion of the Nanda Devi glacier possibly burst through its banks at Joshimath. It triggered an avalanche and a deluge that rippled through the Alaknanda river system in the upper reaches of the ecologically fragile Himalayas.

The missing people include those working at hydel power project sites as well as villagers nearby whose homes were washed away with the force of the raging waters, the officials said.

Uttarakhand Chief Minister Trivendra Singh Rawat said saving lives and extending all help to the families of the deceased is the state government's priority. Union ministers Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank and R K Singh as well as Pauri MP Tirath Singh Rawat, Uttarakhand minister Dhan Singh Rawat also met the affected families in disaster-hit Tapovan and Raini and assured them of all support.

Two power projects – NTPC's 480 MW Tapovan-Vishnugad project and the 13.2 MW Rishi Ganga Hydel Project – were extensively damaged with scores of labourers caught in tunnels as the waters came rushing in.

While Indian Air Force teams left for the affected areas to ramp up relief efforts, personnel from multiple forces worked through the night. The State Emergency Operation Centre said 27 people were rescued alive. Of these, 12 were saved from the smaller of the the two tunnels at the Tapovan-Vishnugad project site and 15 from the Rishi Ganga site.

With no clarity on what led to the disaster and experts pointing to climate change, scientists also headed to Chamoli to understand what had happened.

(With PTI inputs)

Posted By: Abhinav Gupta