At least one hundred and eighty people are missing, and nineteen people lost their lives in northern India after part of a Himalayan glacier fell into a river sending a shocking flood of water, rocks, and dust down a mountain gorge crashing the dam. Rescue teams worked together through the night to find and rescue survivors trapped under the debris. Most of the missing persons are workers from two hydroelectric plants in the Chamoli district of Uttarakhand, which were hit by the water avalanche.
The authorities also sent hundreds of troops, paramilitaries, and many military helicopters to the affected region to help and rescue those people. Narendra Modi, the Prime Minister of India, tweeted that he was constantly monitoring the unfortunate situation in Uttarakhand. Further, he wrote that he also received the latest updates from the authorities on deployment, rescue work, and relief operations.
Am constantly monitoring the unfortunate situation in Uttarakhand. India stands with Uttarakhand and the nation prays for everyone’s safety there. Have been continuously speaking to senior authorities and getting updates on NDRF deployment, rescue work and relief operations.
— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) February 7, 2021
Leaders all across the world also sent their condolences to the families of the unfortunate victims. Boris Johnson, the Prime Minister of the U.K., also shared his thoughts and sympathies with the people of India in Uttarakhand in a tweet. Further, he adds that the United Kingdom stands in solidarity with the Indian people and is ready to offer all types of support.
Destruction and Debris in its wake
According to the Uttarakhand police, an avalanche struck at around 11:00 local time on Sunday. It destroyed a dam such as Hydroelectric Project. Police said that the impact catapulted a flood of water along the Dhauliganga river and also damaged another power project downstream in the Tapovan area. In addition, senior police officials told the reporters that a bridge in the Tapovan area washed away that connected thirteen villages. The rescue helicopters airdropped food packets in some of these villages.
One witness of the disaster compared the flash flood to a scene from a Bollywood movie. One can see the floodwater barreling through the area in the video. Earlier, the emergency workers evacuated several villages. However, authorities said that the main danger of the flood had passed. The emergency crew managed to rescue sixteen workers trapped inside a tunnel that filled with debris. Officials said that almost thirty-five to forty people also trapped in a second tunnel. The rescue workers reached the mouth of the 1.5-mile tunnel. They are in the process of clearing the area with heavy and innovative equipment.
What is the reason for the Glacial Burst?
According to the experts, there is one possibility that the massive ice blocks broke off the glacier because of the temperature rise, releasing a huge amount of water. That might cause avalanches to bring down mud and rocks. A senior glaciologist, DP Dobhal, says that this is a strong possibility because there was an excessive amount of sediment flowing down. Experts also said that the avalanche also hit the glacial lake that then burst.
Another possibility of the disaster is that a landslide or avalanche might block the river for some time, causing it to burst out after the rose of the water level. Sunday’s tragedy prompted calls by environmental officials and groups for a review of power projects in the environmentally sensitive mountains. The Uttarakhand Space Application Center director, MPS Bisht, says that avalanches are a common phenomenon in the catchment area.