Twenty-six bodies have been recovered in the Indian Himalayas, and many more are missing after the second day of rescue efforts after a glacier broke, causing water and avalanches in a river valley and two dams to collapse.
An avalanche of water is being considered after the glacier broke off from Nanda Devi mountain in Uttarakhand on the morning of Uttara, when it wreaked havoc.
Authorities say 171 people are still missing.
Rapid floodwaters destroyed two hydroelectric power plants along the Reshi Ganga and Dhali Ganga rivers, where hundreds of workers were working. The floods also washed away several bridges, roads, houses and hundreds of grazing sheep, cattle and goats, and damaged two other hydropower plants.
Hundreds of soldiers, paramilitaries and aid workers have been brought to Choli district since the mudslides. Most of Monday’s rescue operations focused on a 1.5-mile (2.4-kilometer) tunnel under the Tapu Vinshnabad hydropower dam, which was severely damaged by flash floods.
About 39 workers are believed to have been trapped inside a 3-meter-high tunnel, which was blocked by mud and rocks after falling as a result of flooding. Heavy machinery was brought in to try to dig the tunnel entrance, working with rescue workers digging with shovels. But as darkness fell, they had no contact with the people trapped in the ranch.
Indo-Tibetan Border Police spokesman Vivek Pandey, who is overseeing the rescue operation, said: “About 100 meters inside the tunnel is clean and accessible, and it looks like about 100 meters of debris has been cleared. It will take a few more hours.
Earlier, 12 workers were rescued from a small tunnel under the Tapwan Vishnugad Dam. Lam Bahadur, one of the dam workers, who was trapped in the tunnel for about eight hours when he was swept away by the floodwaters, described the scene: “We had people screaming for us to come out of the tunnel. Heard but suddenly reacted, suddenly he said, a load of water and heavy mud fell on us.
At least nine villages in the affected Wadi Choli were cut off after several bridges were destroyed and goods had to be taken off the wind.
Scientists and researchers were also called to the scene to determine the exact cause of the flash floods. LK Sinha of the Defense Research and Development Organization told Indian media that his team had conducted an aerial survey of the mountainous area where the incident took place.
He said: “In front of Prema, it seems that the hanging glacier has deviated from the central glacier and descended into a narrow valley. In the valley, he created a lake which later erupted and caused damage.
Scientists say it is extremely unusual for glaciers to break during the winter months. But experts have previously said that melting ice due to global warming is expected to become a major problem for the region in the next few years. A 2019 survey found that glaciers in the Himalayas have been melting at twice the rate since 2000 and losing 50cm of vertical ice each year.
Dr. AP Dumri, Professor, School of Environmental Science, Jawaharlal Nehru University, said: “The Himalayas are a water tower. With increasing global warming, the upper Himalayas are warming faster, causing glaciers to rise faster To melt
On Monday, Power and Renewable Energy Minister RK Singh said a remote warning system would be set up to monitor glaciers in the region.
Activists and locals said the incident also demonstrated the danger posed by the construction of large dam projects in the environmentally critical Himalayan region. The state government is involved in a major development project along the rivers of Uttarakhand to meet the growing demand for hydropower in India, and the state has more than 500 hydropower projects.
Amma Bharti, India’s former water resources minister and a senior member of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, was among those who said she had warned against building dams in the area.
Manju Menon, a senior fellow at the Center for Policy Research, said: “One of the most unfortunate consequences of the global climate policy debate is that large dams are being built using a viable non-fossil fuel source of energy. It has been accepted by governments. “
He added, “This acceptance is ironic because in view of the impact on glacier and monsoon patterns, climate change has also made the hydrological flow in the Himalayas uncertain and unpredictable. Therefore, engineering on the Himalayan rivers The planning and execution of major projects is fraught with great dangers, and most scholars of the Himalayan rivers have been warning of these dangers for decades.
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