200 go missing in India after flash flooding

Published February 8, 2021
Banks of the River Ganges river wear a deserted look as people stay away as a precautionary measure in Rishikesh, India, after a portion of Nanda Devi glacier broke off in Tapovan area of the northern state of Uttarakhand on Feb 7. — AP
Banks of the River Ganges river wear a deserted look as people stay away as a precautionary measure in Rishikesh, India, after a portion of Nanda Devi glacier broke off in Tapovan area of the northern state of Uttarakhand on Feb 7. — AP

NEW DELHI: At least 200 people were missing in northern India after a piece of Himalayan glacier fell into a river, causing a torrent that buried two power plants and swept away roads and bridges, police said on Sunday.

Three bodies were found and a desperate operation was launched to rescue about 17 people trapped in a tunnel, the Uttarakhand state police chief said.

The massive burst of water tore through the Dhauliganga river valley, destroying everything in its path, videos taken by terrified residents showed.

“There was a cloud of dust as the water went by. The ground shook like an earthquake,” local inhabitant Om Agarwal told Indian TV.

Most of the missing were workers at two power plants that were battered by the deluge, caused by a huge chunk of glacier that slipped off a mountainside further upstream, said the police chief Ashok Kumar.

“There were 50 workers at Rishi Ganga plant and we have no information about them. Some 150 workers were at Tapovan,” he added.

“About 20 are trapped inside a tunnel. We are trying to reach the trapped workers.”

With the main road washed away, the tunnel was filled with mud and rocks and paramilitary rescuers had to climb down a hillside on ropes to get access to the entrance.

Hundreds of troops and paramilitaries along with military helicopters and other aircraft have been sent to the region.

Authorities emptied two dams to stop the floodwaters from reaching the Ganges at the towns of Rishikesh and Haridwar, where authorities barred people from going near the banks of the sacred river, officials said.

Published in Dawn, February 8th, 2021

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