Hopes dashed, kin of U’khand victims cling to prayer, miracles

As rescuers started recovering bodies from a tunnel of the disaster-hit Tapovan project in Chamoli district of Uttarakhand, all hopes of any survivors have been virtually dashed.

But for many people, there is still a ray of hope. They are relying on miracles and prayers thinking their loved ones might come back alive from the debris and sludge inside the packed tunnel.

“We will not leave hope till we see something. Miracles do happen,” said Hari Singh of Mirzapur in Uttar Pradesh, whose nephew Tripan Singh is missing. Singh, who is camping in Tapovan area, says he is holding prayers regularly.

Gloomy scenes were witnessed when family members started identifying the corpses. “With a very heavy heart, we ask the family members to identify these bodies,” said Yashwant Chauhan, Superintendent of Police (SP) Chamoli, who is closely monitoring the rescue operations.

Family members of Alam Singh Pundir had been regularly praying at Loyal village in Tehri district since Feb 7 when the deluge struck. The moment the phone call came from Tapovan informing about the recovery of the body of Pundir, a pall of gloom gripped his family members with his old mother Manjhi Devi fainting and wife Sarojani Devi becoming inconsolable. Pundir has left behind four daughters.

DGP Ashok Kumar said the post-mortem reports of most of the bodies have indicated that the floods did not give much time to the people inside. “They may have died immediately after the floods hit the tunnel,” said Kumar.

Nearly 200 people went missing after the Feb 7 morning deluge. This is the first time since the Feb 7 floods that the rescuers have been able to find bodies inside the tunnel. “We are expecting more bodies as there is little hope for survivors,” admitted a top official. There is still no contact with the remaining people trapped inside.

The rescuers are working on two places: one inside the tunnel and other at the remains of the Rishiganga project in Reni village. They have stopped the drilling process inside the tunnel, said Superintendent of Police (SP) Chamoli.

As the bodies started recovering from the debris inside the tunnel, rescuers are slowly digging the tunnel so that bodies should not get hammered and are dug out intact.