India dam disaster death toll rises to 61 as search for missing continues

Authorities in the northern Indian state of Uttarakhand Thursday said the death toll in the dam disaster has risen to 61 and the search for missing people was underway.

“As of now, a total of 61 bodies and 28 human body parts have been retrieved from different places,” reads a statement issued by the police. “Out of these 34 bodies and one body part has been identified.”

Police said DNA profiling of the unidentified bodies have been carried out.

According to the police, missing reports of 204 persons have been filed so far at Joshimath police station.

“So far DNA samples of 56 relatives and 49 bodies have been sent for matching to FSL Dehradun,” the statement said.

Meanwhile, the search operation in the area is underway.

On February 7, a glacier is believed to have crashed into a dam in Uttarakhand, triggering a huge flood.

The floodwaters burst open a dam and a deluge of water hurtled down flooding the area in its course, damaging two hydropower projects and leading to numerous deaths, besides endangering hundreds of others.

Majority of the missing in the disaster are believed to be workers from two hydropower plants.

Immediately after the incident, rescuers rushed to carry out efforts on several sites, including a tunnel more than 200 meters long to save the trapped ones.

Initially, rescuers managed to save 16 workers who had been trapped inside a tunnel that had been filled with debris.

Apart from locals, authorities moved in disaster response force personnel, troops, paramilitaries and military helicopters to the state to help with rescue efforts.

Officials said water and slush inside the tunnels was hampering the search for missing.

However, with days passing by, there remains little hope for the survival of the people that are reported missing.

Meanwhile, a team of Indian scientists are investigating the incident that triggered the devastation.

Reports said last week five scientists flew over the glacier in a helicopter, took pictures, looked at satellite photographs and collected data from the devastated area. The scientists believe that the incident took place after a Himalayan glacier from a remote peak fell into the water.

Earlier this week local Uttarakhand government said it will create a department to investigate the cause of the glacier burst.

“All angles (related to the Chamoli glacier burst) should be investigated. We will form a department so that we can monitor and study all the glaciers through satellite,” Satpal Maharaj, Uttarakhand irrigation minister said.