Rescuers on Sunday found 13 bodies, including six from the tunnel where 25-35 people are reportedly trapped at the disaster-hit Tapovan project in Chamoli district in Uttarakhand, officials said.
The six bodies were found during the excavation work inside the tunnel, state police spokesperson said, DIG Nilesh Anand Bharne.
This is the first time since the February 7 floods that the rescuers have found bodies inside the tunnel.
“We are expecting more bodies as hopes are receding for survival of those trapped,” a top official admitted. There is still no contact with the remaining trapped people inside.
Officials also said that the rescue work had been speeded up with the installation of some additional machines like excavators on Saturday.
Presently, the rescuers are working on two strategies – drilling a big hole vertically downward on one hand and digging and excavating debris and sludge inside the tunnel on the other.
Two days ago, the rescue workers had started drilling the tunnel vertically downward. However, within hours, the drilling work was also intermittently disrupted due technical reasons. But the rescuers made another attempt on Friday night and made a small hole vertically downward.
After days of digging and excavation works, jawans of the army, the Indo-Tibetan Border Police, the National Disaster Response Force and the State Disaster Response Force, who are engaged in the rescue work, had managed open up a sizeable portion of the tunnel. But the presence of heavy silt and sludge inside the tunnel slowed down the excavation and digging work, top government officials said. Rescuers had also consulted NTPC officials to understand the complicated design of the tunnel.
Elsewhere, seven bodies were recovered – six from disaster-hit Reni village and one from Alaknanda river in Rudraprayag area.
With the recovery of 13 more bodies on Sunday, the total toll has gone up to 51. Nearly 200 people went missing after the February 7 morning deluge.