Dehradun: Two bodies were recovered early on Sunday from the Tapovan tunnel following a seven-day operation to rescue around 30 people trapped in it after a flashflood-hit Joshimath area of Chamoli district, a senior official said.

These are the first bodies to have been recovered from the tunnel at the site of the flood-ravaged Tapovan-Vishnugad hydel project where people were at work when the calamity occurred last Sunday.

The recoveries take the toll in the disaster so far to 40 with 38 bodies recovered over the past week from downstream areas of the Dhauli Ganga river. Chamoli District Magistrate, Swati S Bhadauria, said the two bodies have recovered from the Tapovan tunnel where a massive search and rescue operation has been underway for a week.

One of the bodies has been identified as that of a man from Narendra Nagar in Tehri district.

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Rescue teams have been battling against odds to reach out to the trapped people at the site of the flood-ravaged Tapovan-Vishnugad hydel project.

The NTPC’s Tapovan-Vishnugad hydel project had suffered extensive damage in the flashflood.

Rescuers had said on Saturday that they were still hopeful of finding survivors, notwithstanding the numerous challenges like the muck and the water from Dhauli Ganga constantly flowing into the tunnels.The river had deviated from its path after the flash floods leaving 166 missing.

The State Emergency Operation Centre here had said that scientists of the Indian Institute of Remote Sensing during an aerial survey of the Rishi Ganga found that the glacial lake formed due to the avalanche over it has begun to release water, which reduces chances of it breaching or causing a fresh flash flood during the rescue operations.

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The lake is at the confluence of Raunthi Gad and Rishi Ganga.

According to Central Water Commission (CWC) chairman Saumitra Haldar, it is 400 metres in length, 25 metres wide and 60 metres deep.

The CWC is examining possibilities of what can be done if the water rises to a “critical” level. It is conducting simulation studies and also examining the possibility of carrying out a controlled blast to drain out the water.

P K Tiwari, Commandant of the National Disaster Response Force, had said that based on their experience, they are optimistic about saving lives and mentioned the possible presence of air ducts and gaps in the tunnel.

So far, 20 bodies and 12 human limbs have been cremated after DNA sampling, the DM said.

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A compensation of Rs 4 lakh each was also paid to the kin of five victims of the calamity from Dehradun, Bageshwar and Haridwar districts of Uttarakhand and Lakhimpur Kheri and Aligarh districts of neighbouring Uttar Pradesh.

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