U'khand disaster: ITBP-DRDO team reaches artificial lake site

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New Delhi, Feb 17 (PTI) A joint team of the ITBP and DRDO on Wednesday reached a high-altitude artificial lake in Chamoli district of Uttarakhand that is suspected to have been formed after the recent flash floods.

The lake is created at a place called Murenda which is estimated to be about 5-6 hours trek uphill from Raini village that bore the maximum brunt of the February 7 disaster, officials said.

'This is the first team to reach the lake at ground zero. The ITBP and Defence Research and Development Organisation personnel will analyse any possible threat posed by this artificial lake formed due to the recent flash floods,' Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) spokesperson Vivek Kumar Pandey said.

Earlier, an aerial view of the lake was taken through helicopter sorties and satellite imagery.

The five-member team, led by ITBP Assistant Commandant Sher Singh Butola, will set up a camp and create a helipad near the lake so that a chopper could bring in more experts and logistics to study possible threats that this lake could pose to villages and infrastructure downstream, he said.

The team-- comprising personnel of ITBP's 1st battalion based in Joshimath, climbers from its specialised mountaineering and skiing institute based at Auli and a local guide-- will also find ways to create slits or channels for smooth discharge of the lake water so that it does not perpetuate any damage, Pandey said.

The border force released videos and photos that showed the clear blue-water lake to be calm and officials said it looks to be 250 meters wide while they refused to hazard any guess about its depth.

'The lake is suspected to have been created after a heavy volume of water hurtled down the Alaknanda river system due to a possible glacier burst on February 7.' 'It is important to study the lake so that contingencies can be prepared and early warnings can be issued in case there is a possibility of its breach,' another senior officer said.

The confirmed death toll in the disaster has now 58 while 146 people are stated to be missing.

Eleven bodies have also been recovered from a big tunnel at the National Thermal Power Corporation's Tapovan-Vishnugad project site till now where about 30-35 workers are estimated to have been trapped. PTI NES RT RT RT