Hope is still alive for missing friends, relatives in Chamoli

Deepak Pharswan on Tuesday went back to the disaster-hit Tapovan hydel project area of Chamoli district, where he had a narrow escape two days ago, to see the ongoing rescue operation and search for his missing friend.

Pharswan (27), a native of Rinji village near Tapovan, was fortunate that he managed to save his life by climbing a hill, moments before the deluge struck the 520 MW NTPC’s Tapovan-Vishnugad project on a tranquil Sunday morning. But his friend Manoj Singh Negi (22) was not so lucky. Negi, who was also working close to where Pharswan was operating a cement-mix plant, lost his balance while climbing the same hill and was swept away in the raging waters.

“It was around 10.40 a.m. on Sunday. We were both working together at the dam site when a sudden gush of violent wind swept the area. Sensing trouble, I saw some people running towards the hill. I too ran very fast,” said Pharswan.

“When I was climbing the hill, I saw Negi following me. But within seconds, he was gone,” said Pharswan in a choked voice. “He (Negi) is my close friend as we used to work together at the dam site,” said Pharswan.

Pharswan said within 10-20 seconds a big wall of water hit the project site and brought death and destruction to the area.

Negi was the sole bread-winner of his family comprising his parents and two sisters. Negi’s father has stopped working due to old age. The family members have still not lost all hope. “We all believe in miracles. My friend will come back,” said Pharswan.

Just like Negi, nearly 197 people are still untraceable after the Sunday morning disaster. Most of them were working on the two projects.

On Monday, Union Power Minister R.K. Singh said NTPC has been asked to pay a compensation of Rs 20 lakh to the family members of all those who lost their lives in the disaster. In addition, the state government will provide Rs 4 lakh as compensation. “We are not bothered about compensation. Bring our son Ranjit Singh back,” said a worried Raunaq Singh of Reni village in Chamoli district where scores of people had gone missing after the disaster.

Dozens of people from Reni village used to work at the Rishi Ganga project which has been completely destroyed in the floods. A pall of gloom has descended on the village. Most of the villagers of Reni are bemoaning the losses and helplessly watching the dam site. “We are having sleepless nights,” said Om Dobhal of Reni village.