18 dead, 200 missing after Indian glacier breaks off - GulfToday

18 dead, 200 missing after Indian glacier breaks off


This general view shows state-run NTPC hydropower project site after a flood in Chamoli, Uttarakhand, India. AFP

Gulf Today Report

Eighteen people were confirmed dead on Monday and at least 200 others were missing after a devastating flash flood in India thought to have been caused by a chunk of glacier breaking off.

The resulting wall of water and debris barrelled down a tight valley in India's Himalayan north on Sunday morning, destroying bridges, roads and hitting two hydroelectric power plants.

The wall of water barrelled down a valley in India’s Himalayan north on Sunday morning, destroying bridges, roads and two hydroelectric power plants, according to AFP.

Rescuers in northern India were working on Monday to rescue more than three dozens power plant workers trapped in a tunnel.

Flood-Chamoli-2LThis general view shows the damaged state-run NTPC hydropower project site in Chamoli, Uttarakhand, India. AFP

More than 2,000 members of the military, paramilitary groups and police have been taking part in search-and-rescue operations in the northern state of Uttarakhand after Sunday's disaster, which has killed at least 11 people, left more than 150 others missing and damaged dams and homes downstream.

"There was a cloud of dust as the water went by. The ground shook like an earthquake," local inhabitant Om Agarwal told Indian TV.

The Uttarakhand state government said on Monday 18 bodies have been recovered, and chief minister Trivendra Singh Rawat said at least 200 people were still unaccounted for.

Officials said the focus was on saving 37 workers who are stuck inside a tunnel at one of the affected hydropower plants. Excavators had been brought in the help with the efforts.

"The tunnel is filled with debris, which has come from the river. We are using machines to clear the way,” said H. Gurung, a senior official of the paramilitary Indo Tibetan Border Police.

On Sunday police had put the number of people missing at more than 200, most of them from the two power plants.

Some were trapped in two tunnels cut off by the floods and by mud and rocks.

Flood-Chamoli-Rescue-OperationThis photo shows a rescue operation at Reni village in Chamoli, Uttarakhand, India.

Twelve people were rescued from one of the tunnels on Sunday but 25-30 more were still trapped in the second one, state disaster relief official Piyoosh Rautela told AFP.

With the main road washed away, paramilitary rescuers had to climb down a hillside on ropes to reach the entrance.

Several hundred rescue workers resumed their search operation at first light on Monday including national and state disaster response teams, the army and navy diving teams.


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Officials said two dams had been emptied to stop the flood waters from reaching the holy towns of Rishikesh and Haridwar where authorities barred people from going near the river.

Villages on hillsides overlooking the river were evacuated, but as night fell authorities said the main flood danger had passed.

India prays

Scores of social media users captured the disaster, with footage showing water tearing through the narrow valley below one of the power plants with terrifying force.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi said he was monitoring the relief operation.

“India stands with Uttarakhand and the nation prays for everyone’s safety there,” he said on Twitter.

Floods in 2013 in Uttarakhand, which borders Tibet and Nepal, killed 6,000 people, and led to calls for a review of development projects in the state.

Vimlendhu Jha, founder of Swechha, an environmental NGO, said the disaster was a “grim reminder” of the effects of climate change and the “haphazard development of roads, railways and power plants in ecologically sensitive areas.”

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