In a major disaster, a part of the Nanda Devi glacier broke off at Joshimath in Uttarakhand’s Chamoli district on Sunday. It caused a massive flood in the Dhauli Ganga river and led to large-scale devastation in the upper reaches of the ecologically fragile Himalaya.
Disaster struck at 10.55 am, after an avalanche near Raini, a village close to the Dhauliganga river, which is a sub-tributary of the Alaknanda. The floods wiped out everything in its path.
It is also feared that around 150 laborers who were working at a power project in Tapovan-have come into contact with the massive flooding, and are now feared dead.
An Indo-Tibetan Border Police spokesperson gave a statement while quoting the project-in charge. Three bodies were recovered as the statement came in.
The power project was swept away completely, added state Director General of Police Ashok Kumar while describing the situation as under control.
Homes that fell in the way of the massive flooding were also swept away as the waters rushed down the mountainsides with brute force.
There were fears of damage in villages downstream, including in heavily populated areas. Many villages were evacuated and people have been taken to safer areas.
Over 200 troopers of the Indo-Tibetan Border Police have been posted in the area, ITPB Director-General SS Deswal said.
“It is suspected that around 100 workers were at the site, out of which 9-10 dead bodies have been recovered from the river. Indian Army will join the rescue operations soon,” ANI quoted him as saying.
Connectivity with some border posts was “totally restricted” due to a bridge collapsing near Reni village, an ITBP spokesperson said.
Several districts, including Pauri, Tehri, Rudraprayag, Haridwar and Dehradun, that were likely to be affected were put on high alert and forces of the ITBP and the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) rushed in to help with the rescue and relief effort.
“I am constantly monitoring the unfortunate situation in Uttarakhand. India stands with Uttarakhand, prays for everyone’s safety,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi said.
News that the 150 labourers at the project on Rishi Ganga were affected had come in the early in the day.
“Representatives of the power project have told me that they are not being able to contact around 150 of their workmen at the project site,” said State Disaster Response Force DIG Ridhim Aggarwal. The waters in the Dhauli Ganga, a tributary of the Ganga, was flowing two to three meters above normal, the official added.
Home Minister takes stock of the situation
Union Home Minister Amit Shah spoke to Uttarakhand Chief Minister Trivendra Singh Rawat and assured him of all possible support to deal with the situation arising from the glacier burst and the resulting floods.
In a series of tweets in Hindi, Shah also said teams of the NDRF were being deployed for rescue and relief operations of the affected people, while additional troops of the force were 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.
Shah said the central government is constantly monitoring the situation in Uttarakhand.
“Some more teams of NDRF are being airlifted from Delhi and sent to Uttarakhand. We are constantly monitoring the situation there,” he said.A home ministry spokesperson said four NDRF teams (about 200 personnel) were airlifted to Dehradun and would head to Joshimath.
The chief minister also appealed to people to not spread rumours through old flood videos.He said the water level in the Alaknanda, another tributary of the Ganga, is one meter above normal, but the flow was reducing gradually.
He said all districts concerned have been alerted and people have been asked not to go near the Ganga river.