Uttarakhand Glacier Burst Leaves Seven Dead, At Least 125 Missing

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Dehradun/New Delhi- 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, leaving at least seven people dead and 125 missing 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 but about 125 were still missing. 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 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 was believed that downstream areas were safe and the Central Water Commission (CWC) said there was no threat to neighbouring villages. However, the water level in the Dhauli Ganga river surged up once again on Sunday night under the impact of the glacial burst during the day, creating panic among people living in the area.

The sudden surge in the water level in the Dhauli Ganga at around 8 pm prompted authorities to suspend rescue operations underway to extricate 30-35 people trapped in the debris clogging one of the tunnels at the Tapovan-Vishnugad hydel project. The rescue efforts will be resumed on Monday morning, the GM of the project said.

Swirling waters of the river gurgling downwards are causing fear among people living in the area, he said late Sunday night.

A 13.2 MW small hydro project on the Rishi Ganga was swept away in the glacier burst but there was no danger of floods in downstream areas as the water level had been contained, the National Crisis Management Committee (NCMC), headed by Cabinet Secretary Rajiv Gauba, was informed at an emergency meeting in the national capital earlier in the day.

The NCMC was also told that people trapped in a 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.

Connectivity with some border posts was “totally restricted” due to a bridge collapsing near Reni village, close to the project site, an ITBP spokesperson said.

The border guarding force has units based in Joshimath, a short distance away, and managed to reach the spot within an hour of the first alert at about 10.45 am.

Several districts, including Pauri, Tehri, Rudraprayag, Haridwar and Dehradun, were put on high alert and forces of the ITBP and the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) rushed in to help with the rescue and relief effort. The personnel were seen rappelling down steep mountainsides to aid in the rescue work.

The India Meteorological Department informed that there is no rainfall warning in the region for the next two days.

As details of the disaster came in, President Ram Nath Kovind said he was deeply worried about the massive glacier burst at Joshimath, about 295 km from Dehradun.

“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 in the state.

India stands with Uttarakhand, prays for everyone’s safety, he said.

Addressing a rally in West Bengal later in the day, he assured all help in fighting the calamity and said he was in constant touch with the Uttarakhand chief minister and Home Minister Amit Shah on the rescue and relief efforts being carried out.

Shah also spoke to Rawat and assured him of all possible support to deal with the situation arising from the glacier burst and the resulting floods.

In a series of tweets in Hindi, Shah said teams of the NDRF were deployed for rescue and relief operations of the affected people while additional troops of the force were being airlifted from Delhi.

“I have spoken to Chief Minister @tsrawatbjp ji, DG ITBP and DG NDRF regarding the natural disaster in Uttarakhand. All the concerned officers are working on a war footing to secure the people. NDRF teams have left for rescue operations. Every possible help will be provided to ‘Devbhoomi’,” he said.

Shah said the central government is constantly monitoring the situation in the state.

“Some more teams of NDRF are being airlifted from Delhi and sent to Uttarakhand. We are constantly monitoring the situation there,” he said.

A Home Ministry spokesperson said four NDRF teams (about 200 personnel) were airlifted to Dehradun and would head to Joshimath. One column of the Engineering Task Force (ETF) of the Army, with all rescue equipment, has been deployed.

Union Home Minister Amit Shah spoke to Uttarakhand Chief Minister Trivendra Singh Rawat and assured him of all possible support to deal with the situation arising in the wake of glacier burst and floods.

In a series of tweets in Hindi, Shah also said teams of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) have been deployed for rescue and relief operations of the affected people while additional troops of the force are being airlifted from Delhi.

“I have spoken to Chief Minister @tsrawatbjp ji, DG ITBP and DG NDRF regarding the natural disaster in Uttarakhand. All the concerned officers are working on a war footing to secure the people. NDRF teams have left for rescue operations. Every possible help will be provided to ‘Devbhoomi’,” he said.

Shah said the central government is constantly monitoring the situation in Uttarakhand.

“Some more teams of NDRF are being airlifted from Delhi and sent to Uttarakhand. We are constantly monitoring the situation there,” he said.

A home ministry spokesperson said four NDRF teams (about 200 personnel) are being airlifted to Dehradun and will head to Joshimath.

The chief minister also appealed to people to not spread rumours through old flood videos.

He said the water level in the Alaknanda, another tributary of the Ganga, is one metre above normal but the flow was reducing gradually.

He said all districts concerned have been alerted and people have been asked not to go near the Ganga.

ITBP, NDRF teams rushed to Uttarakhand

Teams of the Indo-Tibetan Border Police and the National Disaster Response Force were rushed to flood-hit areas in Uttarakhand, where a glacier broke off at Joshimath and caused massive flooding in the Dhauli Ganga river on Sunday, officials said.

An ITBP officer said two teams of the force, comprising about 200 personnel, had moved to the affected areas from Joshimath.

The border guarding force has units based in Joshimath as part of its mandate to guard the Line of Actual Control (LAC) with China.

As news of the disaster came in, two teams were rushed from Dehradun to Joshimath, NDRF Director General S N Pradhan added. We are working to airlift three-four more teams from the Hindon IAF base near Delhi, he said.

The extent of damage can only be ascertained after some more time, he said.

More than 150 labourers working at the Rishi Ganga power project may have been directly affected, said State Disaster Response Force DIG Ridhim Aggarwal.

Representatives of the power project have told me that they are not being able to contact around 150 of their workmen at the project site,” she said. Though details are awaited, several districts, including Pauri, Tehri, Rudraprayag, Haridwar and Dehradun, are likely to be affected and have been put on high alert.

High alert in UP

The Uttar Pradesh government on Sunday asked authorities in all districts of the state on the banks of the Ganga river to be on a high alert and continuously monitor the water level after a glacier broke off in Joshimath in Uttarakhand’s Chamoli district.

The disaster caused a massive flood in the Dhauli Ganga river in Uttarakhand and endangering the lives of people living along its banks.

More than 150 labourers working at the Rishi Ganga power project may have been directly affected, said State Disaster Response Force DIG Ridhim Aggarwal.

In a disaster alert issued here on Sunday to all the district magistrates in UP, the Relief Commissioner said in a statement, “Report of breaking of a part of Nandadevi Glacier in Uttarakhand has been received. The districts on the Ganga river (banks) need to be on a high alert and the monitoring of water level needs to be done 24 7. If required, the people need to be evacuated.”

The NDRF, SDRF and PAC Flood Company are been given instructions to be on the highest alert, the statement added.

PM Modi reviews flood situation in U’khand, says nation prays for everyone’s safety there

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday reviewed the situation in Uttarakhand following floods caused by a glacier burst at Joshimath in Chamoli district, and took stock of the rescue and relief work underway.

“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,” Modi tweeted.

The PMO said in another tweet that Modi, who is in Assam to launch several development projects, reviewed the situation in Uttarakhand and spoke to the state chief minister.

“Authorities are working to provide all possible support to the affected,” the PMO said.

Modi is on a tour to Assam and West Bengal on Sunday.

A glacier broke off in Joshimath in Uttarakhand’s Chamoli district on Sunday, causing a massive flood in the Dhauli Ganga river and endangering the lives of people living along its banks. Massive destruction is feared.

More than 150 labourers working at the Rishi Ganga power project may have been directly affected, said State Disaster Response Force DIG Ridhim Aggarwal.

 

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