At least 15 persons have been killed and over 150 are missing after 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.
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.
Here are the latest updates:
State govt. releases ₹20 crore relief package
Uttarakhand CM Trivendra Singh Rawat says on Twitter that the State government has released ₹20 crore for relief to the affected people, reviews the progress of rescue operations with senior officials.
– Devesh Pandey
Uttarakhand Police releases details of missing persons, 19 bodies recovered
Uttarakhand police released details of 202 missing people after the devastating floods in the region:
Ritvik Company: 21
Ritvik’s associates: 100
HCC company: 03
Om Metal: 21
Tapovan village: 02
Ringi village: 02
Rishiganga company: 46
Karchhau village: 02
Raini village: 05
The police said bodies of 19 victims have been recovered so far.
– Devesh Pandey
Rations air dropped to nine villages beyond Raini bridge
Ration being air dropped to nine villages beyond Raini bridge. Special Arrangement.
Ration being air dropped to nine villages beyond Raini bridge that was swept away in floods caused by glacial burst yesterday, says ITBP spokesperson.
– Vijaita Singh
We waited for hours, praying to God and joking with each other, says rescued worker
One of the rescued workers, Rakesh Bhatt, said they were working in the tunnel when water rushed in.
“We thought it might be rain and that the water will recede. But when we saw mud and debris enter with great speed, we realised something big had happened,” he said.
Mr. Bhatt said one of the workers was able to contact officials via his mobile phone.
“We waited for almost six hours — praying to God and joking with each other to keep our spirits high. I was the first to be rescued and it was a great relief,” he said.
Another survivor, a 28-year-old named Rajesh Kumar, told AFP that it seemed like a scene from a Hollywood movie.
“We were 300 meters inside the tunnel working. Suddenly there was whistling and shouting telling us to get out,” said Kumar.
“We started running out but the water gushed in. It was like scenes from a Hollywood movie. We thought we wouldn’t make it,” he said.
– AP, AFP
Why did a part of the Nanda Devi glacier burst?
It’s not yet known what caused part of the Nanda Devi glacier to snap off Sunday morning, sending floodwater surging downstream toward power plants and villages.
Seismic activity and a buildup of water pressure can cause glaciers to burst, but one particular concern is climate change. High temperatures coupled with less snowfall can accelerate melting, which causes water to rise to potentially dangerous levels.
“Most mountain glaciers around the world were much larger in the past and have been melting and shrinking dramatically due to climate change and global warming,” said Sarah Das, an associate scientist at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute. – AP
90m debris cleared at Tapovan tunnel
Around 90 metres debris at Tapovan tunnel has been cleared till now, an ITBP spokesperson said on Monday, adding that another 100 metres remains to be cleared.
The Indo-Tibetan Border Police has deployed sniffer dogs at the Tapovan tunnel for rescue operations, said the spokesperson.
Entire Rishi Ganga power project destroyed, says DGP
Uttarakhand DGP Ashok Kumar told the media that at the main disaster site, a bridge linking 13 villages located close to the border with China was washed away, the entire Rishi Ganga power project was destroyed, and 46 labourers and five villagers were reported missing.
“At Tapovan, 12 persons were rescued from the smaller tunnel on Sunday, and 13 missing persons have reported back to the authorities. Over 30 people were feared trapped in the longer tunnel from which debris and slush was being removed,” he said.
Many of the nearly 202 missing persons have been accounted for, said the Uttarakhand police, adding that relief material is being supplied to the affected villages.
Scientists leave for Joshimath for surveillance, reconnaissance after glacier burst
A team of scientists, flown to Dehradun after the glacier burst in Uttarakhand, left for Joshimath area on Monday for surveillance and reconnaissance.
The scientists, belonging to the Snow and Avalanche Study Establishment (SASE) of the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), were flown to the Uttarakhand capital on Sunday night.
“A team of scientists of DRDO-SASE, flown in last night to Dehradun, is leaving for Joshimath area for surveillance and reconnaissance,” a Home Ministry spokesperson said on Monday. – PTI
2019 study warned Himalayan glaciers melting at alarming speed
A study published in the journal Science Advances in June 2019 had warned that Himalayan glaciers have been melting twice as fast since the start of this century due to climate change.
The study, spanning 40 years of satellite observations across India, China, Nepal and Bhutan, indicated that climate change is eating the Himalayas’ glaciers, the researchers said.
It showed that glaciers have been losing the equivalent of more than a vertical foot and half of ice each year since 2000 — double the amount of melting that took place from 1975 to 2000.
Rishabh Pant to donate match fee towards rescue operations
India’s swashbuckling wicketkeeper-batsman Rishabh Pant said he will donate his match fee towards rescue operations and also encouraged others to come forward and contribute.
Pant was born in Roorkee, a town in the State’s Haridwar district.
“Deeply pained by the loss of life in Uttarakhand. Would like to donate my match fee for the rescue efforts and would urge more people to help out,” Pant wrote on his Twitter handle.
In an earlier post on Sunday, the 23-year-old wicketkeeper expressed his grief over the loss of lives in the natural calamity.
“My sincere condolences and prayers for the families of those affected by the Uttarakhand flash floods. I hope that the rescue operations underway are able to help those in trouble,” he had written.
Mouth of the tunnel cleared, says Army
The mouth of the tunnel, in which many are feared trapped, has been cleared, the Indian Army said on Monday.
Work continued throughout the night with earth movers by installing generators and search lights, it said in a statement.
It added that a field hospital is providing medical aid at the incident site.
“Indian Airforce Helicopter sorties for insertion of rescue teams commenced before first light. Reconnaissance of higher reaches to detect avalanche threat is underway,” it added. The Army and Engineer Task Forces were attempting to clear the mouth of the tunnel since late Sunday.
UN stands ready to contribute to ongoing rescue and assistance efforts
The United Nations stands ready to contribute to the ongoing rescue and assistance efforts in Uttarakhand if necessary, Secretary General Antonio Guterres has said as the top leadership of the global organisation expressed sadness over the loss of life and damage from the glacier burst and flooding.
Commenting on the glacier burst, Stéphane Dujarric, spokesperson for Secretary-General Guterres, said: “The Secretary-General is deeply saddened by the reported loss of life and dozens missing following the glacier burst and subsequent flooding in Uttarakhand State, India, on Sunday”.
“The Secretary-General expresses his deep condolences to the families of the victims and to the people and Government of India. The United Nations stands ready to contribute to ongoing rescue and assistance efforts if necessary,” he said in a statement.
Responding to the statement by Mr. Guterres, India’s Permanent Representative to the U.N. Ambassador T.S. Tirumurti said: “Deeply appreciate the sentiments expressed by U.N. Secretary General” on the glacier burst in Uttarakhand. – PTI
Rajya Sabha to be apprised after “full details” emerge
Rajya Sabha Chairman Venkaiah Naidu said in that the House will be apprised on the situation in Uttarakhand after “full details” emerge. He was responding to members’ request that the Home Minister provide a report to the House of the search and rescue mission, and other details.
“As far as issue of Uttarakhand is concerned, the entire country is concerned. Today morning, I spoke to Chief Minister of Uttarakhand, and he told me all efforts are on. There is no certainty on number of casualties as the tunnel is long. Multiple agencies are working on rescue mission. Let us wait for some time and get full details, MHA is looking into this and PM is reviewing it,” he said.
“Wait for the full report and then I will ask the Home Minister to apprise the House of the situation,” he added.
Search and rescue operations under way in Chamoli
A joint team comprising the Indo-Tibetan Border Police and the National Disaster Response Force personnel (NDRF) are continuing the search operation for trapped labourers.
“The work of removing slush from the 2.5-km-long tunnel at Tapovan is still under way. JCB has been deployed. Three NDRF teams had joined the rescue operations earlier along with canine search squads. More personnel are being air lifted using MI-17 helicopters,” said NDRF Director-General S.N. Pradhan.
Uttarakhand Director-General of Police Ashok Kumar told the media that following the glacier burst, boulders and debris caused massive damage to the Raini power project. In all, 32 people from the first and 121 people from the second project were missing.
Rajya Sabha | 9.50 am
Experts point to climate change impact
A deluge that resulted from a glacial melt on Nanda Devi flooded the Rishiganga river in Uttarakhand and washed away at least two hydroelectric power projects — the13.2 MW Rishiganga hydroelectric power project and the Tapovan project on the Dhauliganga river, a tributary of the Alakananda.
There were also concerns that the excess water would further travel downstream to the river Alaknanda and threaten villages as well as hydro projects on the river.
However the India Meteorological Department has said that no rains are forecast. Officials of the Central Water Commission meanwhile said the flooding from the glacial burst has been contained.
Tapovan hydel project entirely washed away, says ITBP Officer
Venudhar Nayak, Commanding Officer of the Indo Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) who led the rescue operation at the tunnel of the NTPC’s Tapovan hydel project, where 12 workers were rescued after a seven-hour operation on Sunday, said the project was completely washed away, and the few houses that remain undamaged on the site were covered in slush upto 20 feet deep.
Over hundred persons are missing after the flash flood, caused by the splintering of a glacier, washed away two hydel power projects — the Rishiganga small hydro project and National Thermal Power Corporation’s (NTPC) Tapovan project on the banks of the Dhauliganga river in north Uttarakhand.
Mr. Nayak, whose team of 250 personnel were the first to reach the Tapovan project said it took them seven hours to unblock the tunnel where 12 persons were struck.