The Uttarakhand floods that wreaked havoc in the state on Sunday have so far claimed 32 lives, while rescuers are racing against time to free 25-35 others trapped inside a tunnel near the state’s Alaknanda river.
As many as 150 persons are still missing, officials said.
The floods were caused after a glacier burst at Joshimath on Sunday triggered an avalanche and a deluge in the Alaknanda river system that wreaked havoc and washed away hydroelectric stations.
Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai Lama has written to Uttarakhand Chief Minister Trivendra Singh Rawat, expressing his condolences to the families of the people killed.
"I offer my condolences to those who have lost loved ones, and pray for them. I also pray for the safety and well-being of those who are still missing. I understand that both the central and the state governments are engaged in rescue work and are doing their utmost to provide relief to people affected by this calamity," the letter read.
"As a gesture of solidarity with the people of Uttarakhand, I have asked the Dalai Lama Trust to make a donation towards the relief and rescue efforts," it added.
Meanwhile, using drones and remote-sensing equipment, rescue teams intensified efforts on Wednesday to reach the 25-35 men trapped in the sludge-choked tunnel near Alaknanda river.
The multi-agency rescue operation at the NTPC hydel project site has been going on uninterrupted since Sunday, with no breakthrough in sight, officials said.
A focal point of the rescue work has been efforts to penetrate through tonnes of silt, sludge and debris to get to the 25-35 people, who were at work inside the 1,500 metre tunnel at Tapovan when the waters came rushing in.
"All strategies at the moment are focussed on rescuing those trapped inside the tunnel with the help of all the resources at our disposal, including drones and remote-sensing equipment," Deputy Inspector General (DIG) Nilesh Anand Bharne, Uttarakhand Police chief spokesperson, told PTI at Tapovan.
Drilling through the debris has become more difficult with the silt inside the tunnel drying up and getting harder, he said.
Rescue teams have so far managed to progress 80 metres inside the tunnel and have to make their way through tonnes of debris for at least 100 metres more to reach those trapped inside, the DIG added.
More than 600 Army, Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP), National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), State Disaster Response Force (SDRF) and Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB) personnel are engaged in the search-and-rescue operations.
(With PTI inputs)