Night darkness to hamper rescue work at Glacier burst site in N. India
by Pankaj Yadav
Relief and rescue work is expected to be hampered at the Glacier burst site in India's northern hilly state of Uttarakhand on Sunday, as night darkness engulfed the area, an official at the local disaster management office said.
According to him, special lights have been arranged to carry out the rescue operation, which is expected to go till late in the night.
"We will continue the rescue work till late in the night with the help of emergency lights. We will try to stretch out as much as we can, or till we see any survivors. Thereafter, the rescue work will re-begin tomorrow morning," he added.
At least 10 dead bodies have been recovered so far and 12 persons rescued by the joint teams of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), the State Disaster Management Authority (SDMA), security forces personnel, and the local police.
It is feared that around 150 people are still missing. Declining to comment on the exact number of missing persons, local officials said the final figures would be released once the relief and rescue work gets completed.
State Chief Minister Trivendra Singh Rawat told media in state capital Dehradun that around 125 persons might be missing "though it's not the final figure as work is in-progress to get the exact numbers."
"Besides, at least five local residents, 180 sheep and goats are missing," he said, adding, "We have adequate number of helicopters to carry out relief and rescue work."
Local administrative and disaster management officials told Xinhua via phone that the focus was so far on reaching out to the victims, rescuing and rehabilitating them to safer areas.
They also said that most of the victims were the workers at the two power projects in the affected areas, and that not many locals were affected.
In New Delhi, a high-level meeting of the "National Crisis Management Committee (NCMC)" was held under the chairmanship of the country's top ranking administrative official Cabinet Secretary Rajiv Gauba to review the situation arising out of the natural disaster.
According to officials of the federal home ministry, the glacial burst led to the rising of water levels in the river Rishiganga, which washed away the small Rishiganga hydro project of 13.2 Megawatt.
"The flash flood also affected the downstream hydro project of the National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) at Tapovan on the river Dhauliganga, which is a tributary of the river Alaknanda," said the statement issued by the federal home ministry.
Quoting the Central Water Commission (CWC), the statement said there was no danger of downstream flooding, and the rise in water level had been contained.
"There is also no threat to the neighboring villages," said the statement.
Meanwhile, the central and state authorities have been asked to keep a strict vigil on the situation, and a team from the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), that monitor avalanches, is being flown in for surveillance and reconnaissance.
Around 12 persons trapped in a tunnel at one of the power projects were rescued by security personnel, while efforts were going on to rescue more in another tunnel.
"All-out efforts are being made to ensure that all missing people are traced and accounted for," said an official at the federal home ministry.
Five NDRF teams have been sent to the affected areas, and they were expected to reach later in the night.
One column of the Engineering Task Force (ETF) had been called for to carry out relief and rescue operations, as the Indian army personnel with rescue equipment have been deployed. Navy divers were flown in and aircraft and helicopters of the Indian Air Force (IAF) were on standby, said federal government officials in New Delhi.