February 25, 2021

Indian rescuers are trying to drill into the disaster tunnel from above

Tapovan, India: Indian rescue workers began drilling through a rubbish tunnel on Thursday (February 11) in an attempt to reach dozens of people who went missing due to a flood caused by a broken iceberg four days ago.

Workers worked day and night to remove rocks and mud from a tunnel at a damaged hydropower plant in Tapovan in northern India’s state of Uttarakhand since Sunday’s disaster.

More than 170 people are missing in the Himalayan state. Due to the size of the wreckage, only 34 bodies have been recovered so far.

As hopes for the missing fade, the tunnel operation has made slow progress – clearly frustrating distrustful relatives.

Read: Time is running out for Indian workers stranded in an avalanche

“This whole rescue operation is a joke,” said Sanjay Bandh, whose 24-year-old electrical engineer brother Abhishek is believed to be in the mine.

“We don’t live in the 18th century, where a bulldozer can be used to destroy tons of sludge,” he told AFP.

“Where is our technology, where are our machines?”

Those rescued Thursday returned to a new system, trying to drill into one of the multi-sided mines to reach the missing, officials said.

“It is connected to the main mine at a point beyond the slums and rubbish,” rescuer Vivek Pandey told the Times of India.

“We hope the subway is accessible to trapped workers.”

Read: ‘We did not think we were going to create this’: India describes survivor of the glacial disaster

There are no signs of life from the missing men – estimated to be between 25 and 35 – but rescuers and relatives believe they were somehow able to survive.

Map of two hydropower plants buried by a flood in the Indian state of Uttarakhand, where a glacier fell into a river and caused a flash flood on February 7. (Map: AFP / Gal ROMA)

Global warming

In this disaster water and debris swept across bridges and roads with terrifying speed and frightening force in a valley and hit two hydropower plants.

The cause of the catastrophe is thought to be a glacial eruption.

Glaciers are melting faster in the Himalayas due to global warming.

The construction of dams, the digging of riverbanks into the sand, and the clearing of forests for new roads – some to prevent security on the Chinese border, while others are factors for Hindu pilgrims.

It can take days for more bodies to recover from under tons of debris and dense soup of gray soil.

The body of a policeman was found 110 km away. Downstairs a ghat – a riverside crematorium – was washed away near his ancestral village, the Indian Express reported.

“This is the place where all our ancestors were cremated,” his elder brother Anil Chaudhary told the paper.

“It was a coincidence, but it was God’s grace that his body went back to the condition of our ancestors.”

Chief Constable Manoj Chaudhary, 42, was cremated with full state honors on Tuesday.