Umrangso tunnel disaster: 100 hours later, four missing employees still traceless


GUWAHATI, Oct 11: It has been more than 100 hours since the terrible water tunnel disaster of the NEEPCO-run Kopili Hydel Project at Umrangso in Assam’s Dima Hasao district but there is still no word on the four missing employees who are believed to be trapped inside the pump house.

A burst in the water tunnel carrying water from the reservoir to the main plant had led to a catastrophic-like situation with water inundating the pump house and flooding many areas of the plant site along with nearby localities.

Authorities have begun operations to rescue the missing employees with rescuers trying to divert the course of the water away from the pump house.

NRDF and SDRF teams are also camping at Umrangso to assist rescue operations.

Officials said final operations to trace the missing employees — three of NEEPCO Kopili Hydro Power Project and the fourth of a tunnel maintenance firm — inside the pump house can be launched only after the water level recedes.

NEEPCO officials Robert Baite, Prem Pal Balmiki, Joy Sing Timung and an employee of a firm involved in the tunnel repair work have remained incommunicado after the water tunnel burst in the wee hours of Monday (Oct 7)

NEEPCO and Dima Hasao district administration officials had earlier said it might take another 2-3 days for the water level to recede and any operation launched to locate and rescue the missing persons.

“We are trying our best and hope the water level will recede in two to three days. Our priority is to rescue the trapped persons and to restore the system as soon as possible,” Debotosh Bhattacharjee, NEEPCO General Manager and head of Kopili Hydro Electric Project , told news agency PTI.

Meanwhile, family members of the missing employees have demanded of NEEPCO and district administration officials to locate and rescue their kin at the earliest.

“It’s been more than four days since the disaster but there is absolutely no word on the four missing persons. We want something done. Authorities should understand our condition,” a family member of a missing employee said.

The burst in the water tunnel that carries water at 1200 litres/sec from the NEEPCO reservoir to the Kopili Hydro Power Project site on Monday led to massive flooding and a water fountain that rose up to several hundred feet into the sky.

Reports say the gushing water also submerged several office buildings besides damaging 90 per cent of the machineries of the project.