Tapovan (U'khand), Feb 12 (PTI) Rescue teams battled on against various odds for the sixth consecutive day on Friday to get to the over 30 people trapped inside the sludge-choked Tapovan tunnel amid fading hopes of their survival. Uttarakhand DGP Ashok Kumar, in Dehradun, said sludge clearing and drilling operations are simultaneously underway at the tunnel to reach the smaller tunnel underneath where they may be trapped. 'It may be the sixth day after the calamity but we have not lost hope and will try our best to save as many lives as we can,' Kumar told PTI. On reports of protests by the family members of the missing people in Tapovan, he said they should not lose patience as all efforts are being made to establish contact with those trapped inside the tunnel. Sludge up to 114 metres has been cleared and drilling work is on to reach the silt flushing tunnel where they may be trapped, officials in Tapovan said.
So far, 36 bodies have been recovered from the affected areas while 168 people are still missing, the State Emergency Control Room said. At least 184 livestock in Juwa Gwad and Pang villages of Uttarakhand also perished in the calamity, it said.
Meanwhile, family members of those trapped inside the tunnel protested near the project site alleging 'shoddy relief and rescue operations'. Shouting slogans against the state government and the NTPC, the protesting group from the Tapovan Gram Sabha consisting mostly of women said the NTPC project was a 'curse' for people living in the area. 'First we lost our fields and now we are losing our men. The project is a curse on us. It is the sixth day and sludge has not been cleared up to even 200 metres inside the tunnel,' one of the protesters, Deveshwari Devi, said. The CISF personnel at the project site stopped the protesting kin 100 metres from the mouth of the tunnel where a massive effort was underway by a combined team of the Army, State Disaster Response Force (SDRF), National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) and Indo Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) personnel to reach those stuck inside. Tapovan's ex Pradhan Dharmpal Bajwal who led the protesters said four people from his village were missing since Sunday's avalanche and their kin were now losing patience. On Thursday, rescue agencies began drilling through the debris in the Tapovan tunnel to establish contact with the over 30 people trapped inside after the flash flood. The operation was stalled briefly Thursday when the Dhauliganga river began swelling again. PTI Corr ALM RDM RDM