Uttarakhand: 14 Dead, 170 Missing After Glacier Break Damages Dam, Causes Flooding

It was not immediately clear what had set off the avalanche at a time when it is not the flood season.

New Delhi: The state of Uttarakhand has been put on high alert after a dam was damaged because of a glacier breaking off from Nanda Devi peak.

Fourteen bodies have been recovered, and at least 170 are missing, Uttarakhand CM Trivendra Singh Rawat said. He has announced Rs 4 lakh compensation for the families of those killed. According to NDTV, another Rs 2 lakh will be given from the Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund, and Rs 50,000 to those who have been serious injured.

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.

“It came very fast, there was no time to alert anyone,” Sanjay Singh Rana, who lives on the upper reaches of the river in Raini village, told Reuters by phone. “I felt that even we would be swept away.”

The 13.2 MW hydro project on the Rishiganga river was swept away, but there is no danger of floods in the downstream areas as the water level has been contained.

An estimated 50-100 personnel working at the power project in Tapovan-Reni area of Uttarakhand are missing following which search and rescue operations have been launched, Uttarakhand DGP Ashok Kumar said on Sunday.

Kumar told PTI that some injured have been rescued after state disaster response forces reached the affected areas.

PTI has reported that the Indo-Tibetan Border Police said more than 148 labourers of the Tapovan power project are feared dead, according to the site in-charge. Another 22 people in Rishiganga are also missing.

“The situation is under control now. There is a dam at Srinagar and it has contained the flow. The power project has taken the damage.”

“Our preliminary estimate is that 50-100 people who were working in and around the power project are missing,” the state police chief said.

The National Crisis Management Committee (NCMC) met on Sunday evening, and said there did not appear to be further danger downstream and the water level rise has been contained.

Several districts, including Pauri, Tehri, Rudraprayag, Haridwar and Dehradun, are likely to be affected and have been put on high alert.

“People are being evacuated from the areas near Alaknanda river. As a precautionary measure, flow of Bhagirathi River has been stopped. To prevent the flow of water of Alaknanda, Srinagar Dam and Rishikesh Dam have been emptied. The SDRF is on alert. I am leaving for the spot,” Uttarakhand chief minister Trivendra Singh Rawat was quoted as saying by news agency ANI.

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

Teams of the Indo-Tibetan Border Police, National Disaster Relief Force, State Disaster Relief Force and local administration are at the spot. The ITBP has been able to rescue a number of people, including 12 who were trapped under an under-construction tunnel.

The state government has released the following phone numbers for emergency relief: 1070 or 9557444486. Uttarakhand chief minister Trivendra Singh Rawat has also appealed to people to not spread rumours through old flood videos.

Union home minister Amit Shah spoke to the state chief minister 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 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.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi too took note of the disaster and said, “I am constantly monitoring the unfortunate situation in Uttarakhand. India stands with Uttarakhand, prays for everyone’s safety.”

What caused it?

It was not immediately clear what had set off the avalanche at a time when it is not the flood season. In June 2013, record monsoon rains in Uttarakhand caused devastating floods that claimed close to 6,000 lives.

That disaster was dubbed the “Himalayan tsunami” because of the torrents of water unleashed in the mountainous area, which sent mud and rocks crashing down, burying homes, sweeping away buildings, roads and bridges.

Environmental experts called for a halt to big hydroelectric projects in the state.

“This disaster again calls for a serious scrutiny of the hydropower dams building spree in this eco-sensitive region,” said Ranjan Panda, a volunteer for the Combat Climate Change Network that works on water, environment and climate change issues.

(With PTI and Reuters inputs)

This is a developing story. More details will be added when received.