140 Are Missing After Glacier Breaks in India’s Himalayas – NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth
Indian rescue workers struggled to reach trapped victims on Sunday after part of a glacier in the Himalayas broke off and released a torrent of water and debris that hit two hydroelectric plants. At least nine people were killed and 140 were missing in a disaster. Experts said this suggests global warming.
A video from the northern state of Uttarakhand in India showed the muddy, concrete-gray flood that tumbled through a valley and tumbled into a dam, breaking it to pieces with little resistance before roaring downstream. The flood turned the landscape into an ash-colored moonscape.
More than 2,000 members of the military, paramilitary groups and police took part in the search and rescue operation, including soldiers who are knowledgeable about mountaineering and who work under bright halogen lights until late at night.
The flood was caused when part of the Nanda Devi Glacier broke off in the morning, releasing the water trapped behind it, authorities said. It tumbled down the mountain and into other waters, forcing the evacuation of many villages along the banks of the Alaknanda and Dhauliganga rivers.
A hydropower plant on Alaknanda was destroyed and a power plant under construction on Dhauliganga was damaged, said Vivek Pandey, a spokesman for the paramilitary Indo-Tibetan border police. The two rivers flow from the Himalayan Mountains and meet before they flow into the Ganges.
Pandey said at least 42 workers were trapped in two tunnels on the Dhauliganga project. Twelve were rescued from one of the tunnels while at least 30 others were stranded in the other, he said.
“The rescuers used ropes and shovels to reach the mouth of the tunnel. They dug through the rubble and entered the tunnel. You still have to get in touch with the stranded people, ”said Prime Minister Trivendra Singh Rawat, Uttarakhand’s best elected official.
Another 140 workers at the two plants were missing, Pandey said. Surjeet Singh, a police officer, said at least nine bodies were recovered.
The Himalayan region has a number of hydropower projects on several rivers and their tributaries. According to Rawat, authorities were able to rescue other generating sets downstream as timely action was taken to release water by opening the gates.
The flood also damaged homes, said Ravi Bejaria, a government spokesman, although he had no details on the number and whether any of the residents were injured, missing or dead.
“It all started sometime around 10 am. We heard a bang that shook our village, ”Dinesh Negi, a resident of Raini Village, told the Associated Press over the phone. He said they watched from high above one of the rivers as the water turned muddy and rose in a stream.
“We knew something was wrong,” said Negi. “We could see the rage of the river.”
The video showed rescuers in camouflage uniforms and bright yellow or red helmets reaching the victims with ropes. A man being pulled out of a muddy hole threw his arms in the air, and the rescuers laughed and cheered with him. Rescue workers comforted the victims who were lying in a row of stretchers outdoors.
Scientists have long known that global warming is contributing to the melting and cracking of the world’s glaciers.
Anjal Prakash, director of research and associate professor at the Indian School of Business who contributed to United Nations-funded research on global warming, said data on the cause of the disaster is not yet available: “This looks very much like a climate change event as the glaciers are melting due to global warming. “
Uttarakhand Police Chief Ashok Kumar said the officers immediately alerted residents of the area and evacuated them to safer locations. Downstream, popular tourist attractions on the banks of the Ganges have been closed and all boating activities suspended.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted that “the nation prays for the safety of all” in Uttarakhand.
In 2013, thousands of people were killed in Uttarakhand after heavy rains caused landslides and floods, washed away thousands of houses and streets, and cut communications in many places.
This story has been corrected to show that the authorities started their search operation on Sunday rather than Saturday. It was also corrected to show that the Dhauliganga hydropower plant is on the Dhauliganga River, not the Alaknanda River.
Banerjee reported from Lucknow, India.