Race to rescue people trapped in Indian tunnel goes into 3rd day

Race to rescue people trapped in Indian tunnel goes into 3rd day

Rescue workers were searching for as many as 167 missing people in northern India after a chunk of a glacier fell into a river.

The incidence triggered a massive flood that killed at least 31 people.

The floodwaters washed away parts of two hydropower plants, roads and bridges on Sunday morning in the Chamoli district of Uttarakhand state situated in the western Himalayas.

Military helicopters were carrying out aerial surveys while teams from the disaster response forces, police and paramilitary were scouring gorges and valleys for survivors, State Police Chief, Ashok Kumar, said.

The main focus of the rescue efforts was on a 2.5-kilometre long tunnel at the hydropower site where 35 workers were out of contact since the disaster struck.

Workers were using heavy equipment and shovels to clear about 100 metres of debris and rocks from the tunnel in operations that continued overnight.

“There is no breakthrough yet.

“We keep clearing the debris but it seems packed till way ahead,’’ Kumar said, indicating operations could take more time even as hopes for their survival faded.

However, National Disaster Response Force commandant, P.K. Tiwari, expressed confidence.

“While previously there was debris till the ceiling, this level is going down.

“Our workers have found an opening and are trying to make an entry somehow.’’

Five more bodies were found in the region, taking the official death toll to 31, local police said.

Most of those killed or missing were workers employed at the two plants.

Uttarakhand is an ecologically sensitive region prone to flash floods and landslides.

Scientists had begun investigations into what caused the glacier to burst even as environmentalists blamed the disaster on rampant construction activities and climate change weakening the glacier.

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