Toll climbs to 31 in Uttarakhand disaster, CM Rawat meets affected villagers



The death toll from the Uttarakhand disaster rose to 31 with the recovery of five bodies on Tuesday, the State Emergency Operation Centre said, even as the operation to rescue around 30 workers feared trapped inside a tunnel at the Tapovan power project in Chamoli district continued.

The State Emergency Operation Centre said 175 people are still missing after the Sunday's disaster, apparently caused by a glacier burst.

The National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) earlier said its personnel recovered two bodies from debris in Raini village on Tuesday morning.

Uttarakhand Chief Minister Trivendra Singh Rawat visited Lata in Chamoli district on Tuesday to meet the residents of the avalanche-hit villages.

The chief minister said the pace of rescue operation at the Tapovan tunnel has slowed down due to the flow of slush but efforts are on to reach those trapped inside by drilling through the debris with the help of ropes.

"Undaunted multi-agency security personnel are trying hard to make their way through the tunnel. Let us see how many lives we can save," Rawat told reporters.

Rawat, who reached Tapovan on Monday evening to review rescue efforts, undertook an aerial survey of the affected areas earlier Tuesday and also met 12 workers who were rescued from the tunnel on Sunday evening.

Thirteen border villages of Joshimath block were cut off following the avalanche in Rishi Ganga river on Sunday.

The villages that lost road connectivity in the wake of the calamity are Raini Palli, Pang, Lata, Suraithota, Suki, Bhalgaon, Tolma, Fagrasu, Long Segdi, Gahar, Bhangyul, Juwagwad and Jugju.

Nearly 100 ration kits have been supplied to the affected villages by helicopters to ensure they face no dearth of essentials, officials said.

Talking to reporters, Rawat said the priority is to get to those trapped inside the tunnel and save as many lives as possible.

Additional heavy machines could be pressed into service to expedite the process of clearing tonnes of debris inside the tunnel blocking the path of rescue personnel.

A portion of the Nanda Devi glacier possibly burst through its banks in Chamoli district on Sunday. It appeared to have triggered an avalanche and a deluge that ripped through the Alaknanda river system in the upper reaches of the ecologically fragile Himalayas.

Experts, however, are still trying to determine the exact cause of the disaster in Joshimath.



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