New Delhi, 8 February 2021 (dpa/MIA) – At least 15 people were killed and over 160 people were missing after part of a glacier burst in northern India triggering an avalanche and flash flood that washed away hydropower projects and bridges.
The incident happened on Sunday morning in the Chamoli district of Uttarakhand in the Himalayas, some 2,000 metres above sea level.
Floodwaters carrying glacier chunks from the avalanche damaged two hydroelectric projects and five bridges on the Alaknanda river system and swept away roads, forcing authorities to evacuate villages in the region.
Fifteen bodies had been recovered from different places in rescue operations that continued overnight, the district police said. Most of those killed or missing are believed to be workers at the plants.
A total of 202 people went missing after the tragedy, but 25 have since been rescued, state police chief Ashok Kumar told reporters on Monday.
“Relief and rescue is being carried out on a war-footing,” he said, adding efforts were ongoing to rescue around 30 workers trapped in a plant tunnel.
National and state disaster response teams besides teams from the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP), army as well as navy divers were deployed for the rescue effort.
“We have intensified search operations for these 30 workers since the morning. We rescued 12 workers from another tunnel on Sunday,” ITBP spokesman Vivek Pandey said, adding rugged terrain, low temperatures, mud and debris in the tunnel were posing major challenges for rescuers.
The hilly topography and environmental degradation of the region makes it prone to disasters, experts say. In 2013, Uttarakhand was hit by its heaviest monsoon rains in nearly 90 years, leaving more than 6,000 dead.