NEW DELHI -- Rescue teams were on Thursday working against the clock in India to try and rescue around 30 people feared to be trapped in a tunnel after an avalanche in a Himalayan valley that killed over 30 persons on Sunday while around 200 remain missing.
The operation, which is focused on clearing a 2.5-kilometers (1.5 miles) long tunnel which has been obstructed by mud and debris, continued without any major changes for the fifth consecutive day in an attempt to rescue the 30-35 workers alive who were inside at the time of the disaster.
"We are hoping for the best, it depends on cleaning of the rubble and mud," Venu Dhar, the commanding officer of the first battalion of the Indo-Tibetan Border Police, told EFE, adding they were still hoping to find survivors.
The rescue workers, who had to temporarily suspend work throughout the day due to a massive rise in the flow of the river that blocked access to the tunnel, are working day and night to speed up an operation that was expected to end by Tuesday.
"The tunnel continues to be blocked by mud and rubble, it will take us time," highlighted Dhar, who blamed the difficulties in clearing the accumulated mud for the slow progress.
Relief efforts also continued in the villages cut off after the sudden flood following the avalanche, where supplies are being air-dropped by various teams deployed in the area.
According to preliminary studies, the avalanche may have been caused by the melting of a massive snow mass from Mt Nanda Devi, one of the highest peaks of the Indian Himalayas.
The mountainous state of Uttarakhand in the Himalayas had also experienced floods, landslides, and the collapse of buildings in June 2013 after the monsoon season came a month early that year and produced 68 percent more rain than the average.
About 7,000 died or went missing in that tragedy, many of them Hindu pilgrims who had gone to Uttarakhand to visit some of the most prominent places of worship, and where the Ganges river - considered spiritually sacred by the Hindus - also originates.