An early survey of the damage caused by the glacier break and flood to Uttarakhand’s Tapovan Vishnugad hydropower plant shows the dam has been ‘completely washed off’, Indian Air Force sources said on Sunday.
Chamoli police, on the other hand, said that a total of 15 people have been rescued and 14 bodies recovered from different places so far.
On Monday, the IAF started an aerial rescue mission from Dehradun airbase.
Photos from IAF’s reconnaissance flights showed the Tapovan dam, located at the confluence of Dhauliganga and Rishiganga rivers – nearly 280 km east of Dehradun, destroyed. Two bridges at the entrance of Malari valley and near Tapovan have been washed away as well.
The main road between Joshimath and Tapovan, however, is intact. Construction work and hutments in the valley have been damaged.
“Rubble [was] seen from the entrance of Nanda Devi glacier till as down as Pipalkoti and Chamoli along Dhauliganga and Alaknanda,” Air Force sources said.
Owned by the state-run NTPC Limited, the 520 MW Tapovan hydro-electric project was being constructed at a cost of nearly ₹ 3,000 crore.
Meanwhile, the operation to rescue the people trapped in a tunnel near the Tapovan dam is underway. Efforts are on to clear the tunnel with the help of a JCB machine. The Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) has also intensified the search operation at the second tunnel near the Tapovan dam. “We have information that nearly 30 people are trapped there. Nearly 300 ITBP jawans are deployed to clear the tunnel. Local administration says that around 170 people are missing,” said Vivek Pandey, ITBP spokesperson.
Uttarakhand is prone to flash floods and landslides and the disaster prompted calls by environment groups for a review of power projects in the ecologically sensitive mountains.
The Uttarakhand government has made the following helplines for the Disaster Operations Centre available to those stuck in affected areas or in need of any help: 1070 or 9557444486.