Three people were confirmed dead and at least 150 were missing in northern India after a broken glacier caused a major flood that swept bridges and roads on Sunday, police said.
“We have located at least three dead bodies by the riverbed. Our latest update puts the number of missing persons at 150, and there are 16 or 17 people trapped in a tunnel,” a Uttarak state police spokesman told AFP.
A witness reported a wall of dust, rock and water when an avalanche erupted down a river valley.
“It came very quickly, there was no time to warn anyone,” Sanjay Singh Rana, who lives in the upper part of the village of Raini, told Reuters by telephone. “I felt that we too would be swept away.”
Locals fear that people working on a nearby hydropower project have been swept away, as well as villagers who roam near the river looking for firewood or graze their livestock, Rana said. “We have no idea how many are missing.”
I constantly monitor the unfortunate situation in Uttarakhand. India stands with Uttarakhand and the nation prays for everyone’s safety there. Has continuously talked to older authorities and received updates on NDRF deployment, rescue work and relief efforts.
– Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) February 7, 2021
Prime Minister Narendra Modi said he was closely monitoring the situation.
“India stands with Uttarakhand and the nation prays for everyone’s safety there,” he said on Twitter after speaking with the head of state.
India’s air force was prepared to help with rescue operations, the federal government said, while Interior Minister Amit Shah said disaster management teams were flown in to help with rescue and rescue.
“All the officers concerned are working on a war footing,” Shah said on Twitter, referring to Uttarakhand by his nickname, the Hindi term for “land of the gods” – because of the many Hindu temples and pilgrimage centers across the state.
The neighboring state of Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous, also put its river basins on alert.
Pictures shared by locals showed that the water washed away parts of the pond and everything else that was in its way.
Videos on social media, which Reuters could not immediately verify, showed the water flowing through a small pond and washing away construction equipment.
“The flow of the Alaknanda River beyond the Nandprayag (stretch) has become normal,” Uttarakhand Chief Minister Trivendra Singh Rawat said on Twitter.
“The river’s water level is now 1 meter above normal but the flow is decreasing.”
Uttarakhand in the Himalayas is exposed to floods and landslides. In June 2013, record rain caused devastating floods that claimed nearly 6,000 lives.
That disaster was called the “Himalayan tsunami” by the media because of the water currents released in the mountainous area, which sent mud and rocks crashing down, burying homes, sweeping away buildings, roads and bridges.
Uma Bharti, India’s former minister of water resources and a leader of Modi’s party, criticized the construction of a power project in the area.
“When I was minister, I had requested that the Himalayas be a very sensitive place, so power projects should not be built on the Ganga and its main tributaries,” she said on Twitter, referring to the main river flowing from the mountain.
( Jowharwith AFP and REUTERS)