Glacier breach causes floods in Uttarakhand

Uttarakhand Flood Updates

Eyewitnesses recalled that such was the force of the water flowing and boulders rolling down from the upper reaches near Raini village that the under-construction Rishi Ganga dam was completely washed away.

A glacier breach on Sunday morning at Joshimath in Uttarakhand’s Chamoli district triggered a huge flood that hit two hydropower projects near the Naina Devi park, about 300 kilometers north of Dehradun, killing a minimum of seven people and leaving around 170 missing and feared dead.

It was because the biggest glacial lake outburst since June 2013, when flash floods caused the death of an estimated 5,700 people in and around the Kedarnath shrine in Uttarakhand, highlighting the impact of global climate change and continuing degradation of the ecology within the fragile upper reaches of the mountainous northern Indian state.

At least seven people were confirmed to possess died in Sunday’s disaster and 170, workers working on two hydropower projects, were missing and feared to possess perished. Uttarakhand chief minister Trivendra Singh Rawat said as many as 28 workers engaged within the Rishiganga hydel dam project located on the brink of the glacial lake were among the missing. “Two policemen also are missing,” he told reporters on Sunday evening after reviewing relief and rescue operations.

Rawat said 176 people had been performing on NTPC Limited’s under-construction hydropower project in Taporvan, around 5km downstream, when the disaster struck.

“There are two tunnels there. In one tunnel there have been around 15, in another tunnel, there have been around 30 to 35 workers. Thirty-five to 45 came back and were rescued. One is injured. Rescue work is being administered with much difficulty with ropes and digging of the muck that has filled the tunnels. But no contact might be made to the trapped workers inside the tunnel. Seven bodies are recovered thus far,” he said.

Eyewitnesses recalled that such was the force of the water flowing and boulders rolling down from the upper reaches near Raini village that the under-construction Rishi Ganga dam was completely washed away.

The debris from there gushed into the Dhauliganga river, a tributary of the Alaknanda, causing heavy damage to the 530 MW Dhauli Ganga hydel project, just 10 kilometers away.

Close to 170 workers within the two hydropower projects were missing. Of the 16 stranded during a tunnel within the NTPC plant, two were rescued through a specially dug trench on Sunday evening. “Rescue operations are on,” said Uttarkhand disaster relief force spokesperson Alok Raven.

“The river was flowing 10-15 meters above its normal level and took everything along. Only a couple of concrete structures on the banks remain of the Rishi Ganga hydel project,” said Dhan Singh Rawat, who rushed out of his house in Raini village after hearing an enormous explosion.

As videos of the breach went viral, the government issued an alert on possible flooding within the Ganga river till Haridwar. People living at many places on the banks of the river were being evacuated.

According to the Uttarakhand government, the glacial lake burst was first seen on Sunday morning between 9.30 and 10 am. Experts said that the water from the glacial lake, which could have burst due to an avalanche, could have started much earlier. there’s little or no satellite monitoring of glaciers during this region.

Soon afterward, disaster relief teams from its local base in Joshimath rushed to the spot to initiate rescue operations, alongside the local police. Later they were joined by the army and Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) personnel from nearby bases, officials said. Five teams of the National Disaster Response Force were also flown in to help within the rescue work, officials said.

Raven said: “The rescue teams recovered two bodies from the Dhauliganga hydel power project. We are unable to receive much information about the operation due to communication problems with the rescue teams. aside from that, we also are not bothering them very much like it might disturb them in their rescue work.”

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