International Asia More than 200 missing after Himalayan glacier disaster

More than 200 missing after Himalayan glacier disaster

Glacier burst, triggered flash flood; hydroelectric project workers missing

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Lucknow, India — After a glacier burst in northern India, rescue efforts continued as 18 people were confirmed dead on Monday (Feb 8), with at least 200 others missing.

After the glacier broke off a mountainside on Sunday (Feb 7), it triggered a flash flood through a valley in the northern state of Uttarakhand. Along with water, rock, dust and debris were also sent down a valley.

Most of the people missing were said to have been working on either a Rishiganga hydroelectric project or a bigger one being built by the state firm NTPC further down the Dhauliganga river.

While it is unclear what caused the glacier to break off below Nanda Devi, India’s second-highest peak, experts said it had snowed heavily last week in the Nanda Devi area and it was possible that some of the snow started melting and might have led to an avalanche.

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Uttarakhand is prone to flash floods and landslides and the disaster prompted calls by environment groups for a review of power projects on the ecologically sensitive mountains. In June 2013, record monsoon rains there caused devastating floods that claimed close to 6,000 lives, a CNA article reported.

The glacier broke away as the power complex was operating in full swing, and many workers at two power plants are still missing.

The chief minister of Uttarakhand, Mr Trivendra Singh Rawat, said efforts to clear a tunnel had continued through the night, with some 35 workers possibly trapped in another tunnel.

About 80m of mud and rock had been taken out, but there was still another 100m to go to reach the workers.

“It is possible that about 35 people are stuck inside,” Mr Rawat said.

Rescue squads were focused on drilling their way through a 2.5km-long tunnel at the Tapovan Vishnugad hydropower project site that NTPC was building 5km downstream where the 35 or so workers were believed trapped.

Hundreds of paramilitary and emergency service workers were scouring the valley on Monday for signs of more survivors. /TISG

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