Uttarakhand police have performed the last rites of more than a dozen unidentified bodies and ten body parts a week a snow avalanche hit Chamoli district and triggered a flash flood which left 204 persons missing.
Director General of Police, Uttarakhand, Ashok Kumar, said 38 bodies and 19 body parts have been recovered from different places.
“The bodies and body parts had started deteriorating. As per the procedure after waiting for 72 hours (for a family member to claim the body), the police performed the last rites after preserving the DNA samples. As and when the family members arrive, it will be matched and the persons identified,” Mr. Kumar told The Hindu.
The DGP said that so far all reports have suggested that a big piece of Trishul peak at an altitude of 19,000 feet broke away and the ensuing avalanche caused a flash flood in the downstream Rishi Ganga river.
“Not only the glacier, but a portion of the Trishul peak also broke with it and came down with mud, debris, stones and slush. Several studies by different government bodies have come to the same conclusion,” Mr. Kumar said.
Chamoli police said in a tweet that 12 bodies and one human body party has been identified so far. In all, 204 persons are missing after the February 7 incident when two hydel power projects on the Rishi Ganga and Dhauli Ganga rivers were washed away. Around 35 workers are said to be trapped in the Tapovan hydel project tunnel on the Dhauli Ganga river where rescue work is still on.
“The rescue teams are trying to drill a larger area, around 1 feet in width at the Tapovan tunnel. The drilling is to be done in a tunnel up to 12 feet lower that connects to another small tunnel. We plan to drop down a camera in the smaller tunnel to find what is the status here,” Mr. Kumar.
A team of Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) force and the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) have been extracting mud, slush and debris at the other end of the small tunnel where workers are said to be trapped. So far 136 metres of the 180-200 metre approach that has been blocked has been cleared.
Mr. Kumar said a natural lake that has formed upstream at an altitude of 14,000 feet poses no danger of further flooding as it has been discharging water at a steady pace.
Several teams of police and ITBP have been fanned out to nearby areas to look for the missing persons. Essential items were also being provided to at least 13 villages that have been cut-off after the disaster.