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Rescue operations in the Uttarakhand tunnel collide with a wall as the river level rises | India News


TAPOVAN / DEHRADUN: Twice in the course of a day, rescue operations at the Hydel project site in Tapovan hit a wall, first when the new plan to dig directly into an underground tunnel and reach the 34 trapped workers it didn’t work and then when the waters of the Dhauliganga river started to swell again.
“The water began to rise around 2 pm and orders were issued to vacate the rescue site and downstream areas,” DGP Ashok Kumar said Thursday. While there was no immediate estimate of exactly how high the water had risen, it was well above the 21m safety mark.
All the equipment – excavators, drills, and power generators – had to move quickly. Police teams were also deployed to clear the other rescue site, at the Rishiganga project, where more than 50 members of the Border Roads Organization and the National Disaster Response Force were working. “And drone cameras were used to monitor the rising water level and see if the causes could be discovered,” ITBP spokesman Vivek Pandey told TOI. “Rescue operations resumed when the water level in Dhauliganga dropped again.” This was around 4.30pm.
For the rescue team at the Tapovan site, it was the second outage of the day, with a window of just three hours between the two. Operations at the site have been slow, and the swamp-like debris represents a challenge; carrying them out has not been easy. And while search teams have been working along other parts of the flood path (two more bodies were found on Thursday, bringing the death toll to 36, while 168 are still missing), operations rescuers have concentrated on this site.
In the morning, around 11 a.m., they were forced to abandon the new plan they had come up with to reach the trapped workers: digging vertically to reach an underground tunnel, about 12-13 m deep, that runs parallel to the main structure. The sediment washing tunnel, intended to transport the debris from the tunnel to the river, could bring it to the workers. They started around 2am. But nine hours later, at just 7 meters, the drill hit a rock.
“The rigs had to suspend drilling operations… The machines couldn’t drill any more. Any attempt to continue with force could have caused damage, ”said ITBP commander Hom Bahadur Gurung. Another official involved in the rescue operation told TOI that they had to go back to the original plan, of removing mud and debris, after that.
However, rising waters brought back fears among locals about the lingering effects of whatever caused the first flood. “Those from the villages higher up the hills called and alerted us to the river. We were terribly scared. We don’t want to relive what we went through on Sunday. Those we knew and saw every day are still missing, ”said Himmat Singh, a Tapovan resident. A resident of Raini Chak Suwai said: “We are told that the melting of the ice during the day caused this. We do not understand. We can’t help but worry. ”

Times of India