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Floods hit Uttarakhand as glacier breaks off; over 100 feared dead

PTI Dehradun/Gopeshwar | Updated on February 07, 2021

Rescue operations underway near the Dhauli Ganga hydropower project after a glacier broke off in Joshimath, causing a massive flood in Chamoli district of Uttarakhand, on Sunday

Armed forces lead rescue efforts; 16 workers rescued from tunnel

A portion of the Nanda Devi glacier broke off in Uttarakhand’s Chamoli district on Sunday, triggering an avalanche and a deluge in the Alaknanda river system that washed away hydroelectric stations and trapped more than 100 labourers who are feared dead.

The sudden flood in the middle of the day in the Dhauli Ganga, Rishi Ganga and Alaknanda rivers — all intricately linked tributaries of the Ganga — triggered widespread panic and large-scale devastation in the high mountain areas. Two power projects — NTPC’s Tapovan-Vishnugad hydel project and the Rishi Ganga Hydel Project — were extensively damaged with scores of labourers trapped in tunnels as the waters came rushing in.

Sixteen men were rescued safely from a tunnel in the Tapovan project. The National Crisis Management Committee (NCMC) was told that people trapped in the project tunnel were rescued by the Indo Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) while efforts were on to rescue those trapped in another tunnel. The operation was coordinated by the Army and the ITBP, an official spokesperson said.

 

As night fell in the ecologically fragile Himalayas and rescue work in the difficult to access areas became more difficult, there were fears they may be dead.

Chief Minister Trivendra Singh Rawat, who visited the site, said seven bodies were recovered and at least 125 were missing. Homes along the way were also swept away as the waters rushed down the mountainsides in a raging torrent. There were fears of damage in human settlements downstream, including in heavily populated areas. Many villages were evacuated and people taken to safer areas. By evening, it became clear that the downstream areas were safe.

PM expresses concern

As details of the disaster came in, President Ram Nath Kovind said he was deeply worried about the massive glacier burst at Joshimath. “Praying for wellbeing and safety of people. Am confident that rescue and relief operations on ground are progressing well," he tweeted.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi said he was constantly monitoring the situation. “India stands with Uttarakhand, prays for everyone's safety,” he said.

Increasing human intervention in ecologically sensitive Himalayan region is making it more vulnerable to climate change, said environment experts. The Uttar Pradesh government on Sunday put on alert the authorities in all districts on the banks of the Ganga and asked them to continuously monitor the water levels in the river.

 

Published on February 07, 2021

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