TAPOVAN: Dozens of angry and desperate relatives of about 30 people trapped in a tunnel since a glacier disaster in India jostled with police on Wednesday as hopes faded that they would be found alive.
More than 170 people were still missing after a barrage of water and debris hurtled down a valley with terrifying speed and power on Sunday morning, sweeping away bridges and roads and hitting two hydroelectric plants.
Thirty-two bodies have been found so far, officials said on Wednesday. It may take days for more bodies to be recovered from under the tonnes of rocks and other debris and a thick soup of grey mud.
The main focus of the massive rescue operation, under way day and night since Sunday, is a tunnel near a severely damaged hydroelectric plant that was under construction at Tapovan in Uttarakhand state.
Workers there have been battling through hundreds of tonnes of sludge, boulders and other obstacles to try and reach between 25 and 35 people who rescuers hope are still alive in air pockets.
“As time passes, the chances of finding them are reducing. But miracles do happen,” Piyoosh Rautela, a senior state disaster relief official, said.
“Man, machinery, we are all working round the clock. But the amount of debris is so much that it’s going to take a while to remove all that,” he said.
Outside there were medical teams on standby with oxygen cylinders and stretchers, as well as increasingly desperate and enraged relatives.
There have been no signs that their loved ones are still alive.
“This entire rescue operation is a joke,” Sanjay Pant, whose 24-year-old electrical engineer brother Abhishek was in the tunnel, said.
“We are not living in the 18th century where just one bulldozer can be used to clear tonnes of slush. Where is our technology, where are our machines?” “Authorities are not showing any urgency to rescue those trapped. Another day and we will have to give up hope,” said Santosh Yadav, whose brother-in-law Sanjay was also in the tunnel.
“They cannot survive too long in the tunnel even if they are alive now.
There is no air, water or food inside and it is freezing cold inside the tunnel. Only God can save them.”